NY MTA Wants Apps on Getting Around, But Key Data Still Hidden

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MTA Countdown Clock Photo (Kate Hinds)

The MTA has launched a contest for software applications that help riders get around by subway, bus or train. But the authority is still not releasing certain important information.

The MTA used to make it hard for app developers to get access to things like train schedules and how many straphangers go through the turnstiles at each station. That changed in January 2010, after pressure from developers, when the authority put mountains of data online.

But the MTA hasn't shared data collected by countdown clocks that report the actual time a train will arrive, instead of the scheduled time. Having that kind of real-time information would make many apps more accurate.

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the authority knows the data is desirable but there's no plan for releasing it except that "it's on our to-do list." An MTA staff member who didn't want to be identified said the authority's priority is to add more countdown clocks and put GPS devices on city buses to let riders know when the next bus will reach their stop.

In the meantime, here's some information on The MTA App Quest, which offers $15,000 in prizes to apps that best “improve the transit experience” for the region’s 8.5 million riders. Members of the public can vote on the 42 competing apps, which range from quirky to clever to new age and newfangled.

Read our previous coverage of the competition here.