Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
With a grand project underway to wire all NYC subway stations, the NY MTA is hunting for new smartphone apps aimed at riders. This year there's $50,000 in incentives. Tuesday, the agency released the long list of competitors in the 2013 MTA App Quest.
The public can flip through the list, see sample screen shots, video demos and imagine a world where a phone can guide a blind person through stations*, read signage for you or generate a subway map that automatically changes with construction and weekend re-routing and know what restaurants and stores are right above your stop.
"We are very pleased that so many app developers have dedicated their time and energy toward creating apps that aim to help our customers,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. AT&T is co-sponsoring the contest with $50,000 in prize money, and $20,000 to the top winner to be determined by a panel of judges mostly from NYC government and the local tech community.
Many of the apps are work-arounds for finding information when you don't have internet access underground like cached maps. A bunch of them offer tools to navigate through stations or make more efficient transfers, shaving off minutes here or there from the standard trip routing apps already offered by HopStop or Google Maps.
BlipRail is meant to help people catch their trains better by showing where every train is scheduled to be. "Watching trains go by can be fun and mesmerizing," the app makers say. Users can report when a train is off-schedule.
BuzzJourney is a trip planner for people who want to mix it up between buses, carpooling, bike share and subways, because it might just be faster to plan to take a bus to bike share than sitting tight on the subway.
Subway Fun Finder makes activity and retail suggestions based around specific subway stops or lines.
Fresh Gotham is one hard-partying data junkies might appreciate. It offers a color-coded heat map of the density of night spots or restaurants, so users can decide where to get off the train for a statistically good shot at a good time.
The MetroNap App is for subterranean sleepers. It detects when a train is moving and figures out where you are so that it can wake you up at your stop.
FaresLeft will tell you how much money is left on a MetroCard using the card's serial number -- as soon as the MTA makes that database public, something that's not clear is likely to happen. Maybe if the app wins in the contest.
Judges will pick the winners, but the public can choose a Popular Choice award winner which will get $1,000. Voting is open until September 10th. The winners will be announced at the end of next month.
*This would work when subway stations have Bluetooth location sensors throughout, which is not the case.