MTA, NYU-Poly and AT&T Kick Off App Quest Challenge With Hackathon This Weekend

NEW YORK, May 3, 2013 –Hundreds of app developers and technological whizzes will gather this weekend for an intensive weekend-long collaboration/competition expected to result in big benefits for MTA riders. It will be the first “hackathon” to encourage app development to be officially sanctioned by the MTA, and the results will be presented at the conclusion of the weekend’s work.

Winners will go on to compete this summer in 2013 App Quest, a global apps challenge being sponsored by Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) and AT&T, cosponsored by the MTA, and powered by ChallengePost. The challenge seeks to encourage the creation of apps that will help improve MTA riders’ commutes using real time information and other innovations.

NYU-Poly will hold the two-day hackathon in its MetroTech Center campus in downtown Brooklyn. It will be open to the news media throughout the weekend. Hackathon participants and developers from around the globe can continue working on transit apps using MTA data as part of the multi-month App Quest virtual challenge. Final submissions are due on August 20, 2013.

“With subway riders having greater access to wireless connectivity below ground, and with the availability of new real-time data from the MTA, this is a critical moment for the creation of new apps for MTA riders,” said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. “We are delighted that NYU-Poly, the MTA, AT&T and ChallengePost have been able to come together to reinforce what we are seeking to do with the statewide #OpenNY initiative to make State government data more open, more accessible, and more transparent.”

“With the expansion of underground wireless comes the opportunity to develop new technologies to help improve the daily commute for millions of transit riders,” said Marissa Shorenstein, President of AT&T New York. “AT&T is excited to be at the forefront of this effort with the MTA to spur the development of these innovations and leverage the power of mobile communications to make riding the rails an even better experience.” 

“NYU-Poly is excited to be the educational partner in this hackathon that promises to benefit transit riders throughout the city,” said NYU-Poly President Katepalli Sreenivasan. “It will allow our students to interact with New York’s innovative developer community while challenging them to employ their knowledge from our Integrated Digital Media and engineering programs to produce creative apps worthy of commercialization.”

Brandon Kessler, ChallengePost CEO, said: “There is so much benefit to be had from improving rider experience through great software. It's inspiring to see MTA and AT&T take a lead role in working with developers for this global software competition and in-person hackathon.”

Through App Quest, app developers are competing for $50,000 in prize money, which will go to the apps that can best help the riding public more easily use the MTA’s subways, railroads, buses, bridges and tunnels. The hackathon’s opening introductions will be on Saturday, May 4, at 10 a.m.  The participants will then work around the clock to prepare to present their final products by 5:30 p.m. on Sunday to an exacting panel of techno-savvy, transportation-savvy judges:

  • Matt Brimer, General Assembly Co-Founder
  • R. Luke DuBois, Assistant Professor of NYU-Poly’s Department of Technology, Culture and Society
  • Susan Gladstone, Urban Planner, NYU-Poly Adjunct Faculty in Sustainable Urban Environments
  • Rachael Haot, Chief Digital Officer, City of New York
  • Todd Haselton, Executive Director of Mobile, TechnoBuffalo
  • Brian Malkerson, NYC Seed, Principle
  • Andrew Rasiej, NY Tech Meetup Chairman
  • Marissa Shorenstein, President of AT&T New York
  • Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer, Columbia University
  • Craig Stewart, Senior Corporate Management Officer, MTA New York City Transit

The team that builds that the demonstration app judged to be the best application of the hackathon will receive the grand prize of $5,000. The winners of the second prize will receive $3,000, and third prize, $2,000. After the hackathon concludes, developers will have several months to refine their products before submitting the final versions that will compete for a total of $40,000 in “virtual challenge” prize money. The final version of the apps will be made available to the public through the App Quest website and through the usual app channels including Google Play and the iTunes App Store. Those apps will also be showcased in the MTA’s app gallery on Prize money is being provided by AT&T.

“We are delighted by the level of enthusiasm that the app development community has brought to help our customers better use our system,” said Tom Prendergast, MTA Interim Executive Director, who has been nominated by Governor Cuomo to serve as MTA Chairman and CEO. “App developers have already proven themselves to be creative, engaged, and energetic. We’re looking forward to seeing what they will come up with this weekend.”

General Assembly, a network of campuses that transforms thinkers into creators through our classes, workshops, and long-form courses in technology, business, and design, has agreed to send instructors to provide support and technical assistance to the teams as they make their final presentations. NYU-Poly’s Department of Technology, Culture and Society and its Integrated Digital Media program are providing event support.

The competition is the MTA’s second App Quest. The first MTA App Quest, held from July 2011 to February 2012, received 42 MTA-related app entries. The top winners of that competition were Embark NYC, Free NYC Subway Locator and Notify Me NYC

Since the last App Quest challenge was held, technological innovation has expanded the availability of digital data:

  • This past Friday, April 25, Transit Wireless activated wireless service at 30 underground subway stations in Manhattan and announced that the next 40 stations to receive wireless service, in Midtown and Queens, are expected online in the first quarter of 2014.
  • In December 2012, the MTA released real-time data showing train arrival estimates at the 156 stations served by the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 subway lines and S 42nd Street Shuttle. This dynamic data, which is held in the MTA’s cloud-hosted GTFS-Real Time Feed, essentially make “countdown clock” information available via app.
  • In November 2012, MTA Bus Time™ expanded to the Bronx, bringing real-time bus location data to 54 bus routes and 3,355 stops.
  • On March 27, Google added MTA real-time data to Google maps.


WHEN: Saturday, May 4, 2013 – 10 a.m. – Opening Introductions
Sunday, May 5, 2013 – 4 p.m. – Final presentations
Sunday, May 5, 2013 – 5:30 p.m. – Judging & awards ceremony
NOTE: The hackathon will be open to the media throughout the duration of the weekend as developers are working in teams to build apps.

WHERE: Polytechnic Institute of New York University
6 MetroTech Center
Subway: ACFR to Jay St-Metrotech or 234 to Borough Hall;
Bus: B26, B54, B57, B62 or B67 to Jay St. & Myrtle Av.;
Railroad: LIRR to Atlantic Terminal for connection to R234 or B67.