Looking for the Next Great App

Hoping to generate the next great iPhone, Android or web application that will improve – or potentially revolutionize – the way that New Yorkers commute, the MTA held a conference for tech developers on Wednesday at Google's New York City office.

"This is a great example of how the MTA is working to improve customer service in cost effective ways," said MTA Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder. "Apps are built at no cost to the MTA, and they have the potential to reduce reliance on paper schedules and maps that the MTA spends money to produce."

In January, when the MTA launched its redesigned website, it included for the first time a portal where tech developers could easily access machine-readable data that they can use to build applications to help MTA customers get schedule and fare information.

Some of the apps that help MTA customers navigate the region's public transportation network are:

  • Exit Strategy NYC, which allows users to learn where to sit or stand within a train in order to reach the optimal point of the platform at the destination station.
  • iTrans provides iPhone users a subway map that uses timetables, service advisories and walking directions.
  • The Next Train lets Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad customers plan point-to-point trips or view train schedules up to 14 days in advance with departures listed by station and trip duration noted.

At the conference – dubbed an "unconference" because of its format designed to spur freely flowing ideas – the MTA hoped to learn how it can better partner with tech developers -- for example, which additional data sets developers would like to receive, how MTA data can best be presented, and how apps can best be promoted.

The conference featured breakout session on a number of topics, and a panel discussion moderated by Moderated by Anil Dash, Entrepreneur and Director of Expert Labs, and featured six experts in technology and transportation:

  • Jay Walder, Chairman and CEO, MTA
  • Beth Noveck, Deputy Chief Technology Officer, White House Office of Science and Techology Policy / Director, White House Open Government Initiative
  • Derek Gottfrid, Senior Software Architect / Product Technologist, The New York Times
  • Bernhard Seefeld, Senior Product Manager, Google Maps
  • Anthony Shorris, Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, NYU
  • Nick Grossman, Director of Civic Works, OpenPlans (formerly The Open Planning Project)

The conference was hosted by Google and produced in partnership with The New York Times, NYU Wagner Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, and OpenPlans.