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If you asked me what’s the thing I miss most about NYC, my answer would be simple: my subways and buses (knishes and Crumbs cupcakes 2nd). I (sadly I know) still monitor the happenings in the MTA-run transit system from a far. It’s been awesome to watch how technology is finally being embraced, welcomed and integrated across the system.
Today the MTA announced the launch of a developer app contest named MTA App Quest. Cash prizes will be awarded up to $5,000 for the grand prize. The submission period begins today and runs through September 26.
The New York City MTA (that’s the group that runs the subway and buses among other transit functions) has announced the upcoming launch of the first NYC transit MTA App Center. The App Center will operate in a similar fashion to the Apple App Store and is described as a way, “to showcase the great apps you have built for MTA customers and make them easier to locate.”
If you want to be included in the launch of the App Center, you need to submit your info by Friday April 29, 2011. If you miss this initial launch round, your submission will be included in a future App Center update.
To learn more about the MTA developer programs, check out their developer website.
If you are a regular reader of CN, you already know that I am a huge fan of public transport — even though my friends (real friends not Facebook marketing friends) think I am “on crack” when I talk about buses and subways.
Last month I wrote about the launch of BusTime, a service that the NYC MTA (that’s the public transport organization) launched to help bus riders know where the next bus is currently located and how long before it arrives at the passenger’s desired boarding location. BusTime has been live on the M16 route in Manhattan since last April and was introduced in Brooklyn on the B63 route last month.
Today I learned of a very cool mashup using the open-source BusTime and the popular voice API service Twilio. Developed by John Keefe, his application “tells you” when the next B63 bus will arrive. His colleague mentioned that she wanted a very simple way to know when the next bus would arrive to her stop and not have to use SMS or a fancy iPhone or Android mobile app. John build the mashup in one day and to use it is simple, John explains:
“Dial 646-480-7193. When prompted, enter 308333 or any of the bus stop codes for the B63 line.”
John’s blog post provides some great detail about how he coded the functionality using Twilio and some logic. He noted that Twilio charges $1/month for the phone number plus $0.01/call. It seems like you can’t go a day anymore without hearing about a neat hack using Twilio. Currently you need to know the bus stop code for your stop but I am sure eventually you might be able to just say the name of the stop into the phone.
What’s really awesome about John’s mashup is that anyone can use it as long as they have a phone – unlike many of the other travel services which require smart phones.
Last week I reported that the New York City transit agency (that’s the MTA) launched their realtime bus tracker called BusTime in Brooklyn on the B63 route. BusTime allows you the ability to view estimated bus arrival times and get updates via text message. It’s a really cool service and shows where the MTA is headed in terms of technology.
This week the MTA created a developer site for use with BusTime. The BusTime service is opensource and the MTA IT team is welcoming developers to offer suggestions and code changes to make the system even stronger.
BusTime is powered by the One Bus Away open source software created by a team at the University of Washington.
There’s also a SIRI API that developers can use with the BusTime service. SIRI, or Service Interface for Real Time Information, is defined as, “an XML standard covering a wide range of types of real-time information for public transportation.”
It’s awesome to see how technology can make using public transit easier and more efficient for riders and for the organizations that manage the systems.
Last April I reported that the New York City transit agency (that’s the MTA) launched a pilot program on the M16 and M34 bus lines which run up and down 34th street in Manhattan. The program is called BusTime and allows you to watch the buses move up and down 34th street online. You can also view estimated bus arrival times and get updates via text message.
It’s a really awesome technology because it could mean additional time at home and/or not waiting outside in the snow or rain for a bus that might be 20 minutes away. I would have loved BusTime on the horrible M50 route when I lived in Manhattan.
Today the MTA is launching the BusTime system on the first test line in Brooklyn, the B63. This line runs from Fort Hamilton to Cobble Hill. The B63 BusTime website still shows a “coming soon” message so I guess the arrival is late.
I can’t wait for the day that the BusTime system is available system-wide. Just imagine the fun watching the live map of all of the buses moving around the city!
If you are a regular reader here at CN, you know that I am a big fan of public transit. I actually miss riding my subways in NYC now that I live in Texas (my friends think I am crazy!). It’s been so interesting and exciting to watch the MTA (that’s the NYC transit agency) embrace technology over the past 12-18 months.
At the MTA Transit Committee meeting for January 2011, there was some interesting information regarding RFID testing. The information begins by noting that on the 7 train line which runs from Times Square out to Main Street in Queens, they are testing a new train tracking system called the Interactive Train Registry Activity Console (I-Trac).
From the report, “The I-TRAC system is a web-based system with many advantages…updates can be implemented very quickly and will only require a refresh of the browser to be activated by the end-user. Updates will be performed between rush hours.”
During November 2010, the MTA tested RFID and GPS units along the 7 train line. From the report, “TIS installed barcode RFID tags on a 7 train so that the barcode could be read by a hand held device to test the GPS. On December 15, TIS conducted their RFID and GPS test on the 7 line at the Vernon-Jackson station.” The report continues, “The data will be captured via the trains, downloaded, converted to the Transit TIS system, and then broadcasted to the public. The GPS and RFID reader gave very good results. The RFID gave accurate readings of trains entering and leaving the stations…The next step will be for the vendor and Subways Engineering to conduct site surveys of three stations where RFID readers will be installed.”
The MTA has been testing countdown clocks at a variety of subway stations. My issue with these clocks is that they are only available after you have paid your fare and are waiting on the platform. It looks like these new RFID/GPS units will be able to broadcast realtime information so you can make a decision before you leave home or the office.
Earlier today I posted our weekly job openings from the CN Job Board. There’s been some discussion about a couple of job openings at the NYC MTA (that’s the transit authority) that I thought were worth highlighting. I’d be all over the Sr. Manager role if I wasn’t working at CloudContacts currently.
With the MTA investing heavily in technology and their new commitment to working with web developers, both of these positions should see great visibility — both inside the MTA and within the NYC tech community.
Here are direct links to both positions – sadly the employment section of the MTA site is not easy to link to or browse so use these links to get to the jobs directly.
- Sr. Manager, Internet Communications & Technologies
- Senior Web Developer
Summary of the Sr. Manager position:
This position creates and implements long-term strategy for all internet communications between the MTA and the public as well as within MTA Operating Agencies. Will drive front-end web development while keeping abreast of all new technologies to determine their usefulness and appropriateness in serving both the public users of the MTA website and the MTA itself.
Provides oversight for all MTA internet, intranet, and mobile website initiatives, social media, paid internet advertising, and internal and external email communications, creating and ensuring implementation of standards for information architecture, content and graphic presentation.