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An Apps Contest for the MTA

BY Nick Judd | Monday, July 11 2011

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the entity responsible for the New York City Subway and commuter transportation in the city's metropolitan area, is hosting an apps contest for developers to build on top of the data they have released, the public benefit corporation announced Monday.

The grand prize is $5,000 and some swag, including a custom five-foot subway sign. The contest corresponds with the release of new datasets by the MTA, including one that's supposed to contain performance data for all MTA agencies from 2008 to the present — including on-time performance, elevator and escalator availability, and ridership.

The MTA has an active and engaged developer community and staffers who go back and forth with them on data access and data quality on a regular basis, using an open mailing list. In a span of two hours after an MTA spokesman announced the release of new data data to the developer mailing list, some of the developers on the list tried to download the files, found a couple of problems — the type that pertain mostly to format and are only interesting if you're trying to use the data — and received an acknowledgement from the MTA that the problems will be fixed.

About two years ago, the MTA began to get serious about releasing data and making it easy for third-party developers to release applications that put it to use. It was a dramatic reversal from the organization's notoriously tight-lipped past.