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MTA awards prizes to new transit apps

(Nancy Borowick)

(Nancy Borowick) Photo Credit: (Nancy Borowick)

Apps that offer real-time transit information, tunes from subway buskers and collect user experiences were among the winners of the MTA's second App Quest competition.

A panel of nine judges awarded the $20,000 grand prize to Citymapper, a U.K.-based company that developed a commuting navigation app that has already been helping Londoners get around for more than a year.

"If you do London, you gotta do New York," said Citymapper founder and CEO Azmat Yusuf. "It's the next big one where people have this miserable commute and you can potentially help them out."

Citymapper, available for the iPhone, with an Android version due in a few weeks, offers directions for people traveling by train, bus, foot and bicycle, including Citi Bike.

The MTA and luminaries from the tech world awarded $40,000 from AT&T to six finalists of the 49 apps submitted for the contest at a ceremony held in Grand Central Station. The judging panel comprised of tech, transit and government experts, including Marissa Shorenstein, president of AT&T New York; Sree Streenivasan, the chief digital off Columbia Journalism School professor; and Rachel Haot, the city's chief digital officer. Last year, the top winner was Embark NYC.

The MTA handed over its data, such as real-time train and bus movements, to developers to design a host of transit apps to make city traveling easier. Currently, the MTA offers real-time data on the No. 1 through 6 trains and the 42nd Street shuttle. Real-time locations for buses are available for Bronx and Staten Island routes, with the entire bus fleet covered by next summer.

"We know that it is truly not our data," said MTA chair and CEO Thomas Prendergast. "It's the public's data. We're merely proud stewards of that data."

Other winners offered info other than routes and schedules.

SubCulture.FM, the second place winner that was awarded $10,000, lets train riders store the names of subway musicians in MTA's Music Under New York program by scanning the bar code on an artist's banner.

An app that helps blind and visually impaired riders move throughout the subway system received an honorable mention and a $1,000 prize.

Like other app developers at the competition, Omar Tellez, president of Moovit, the people's choice app that offers crowdsourced navigation, described his product with a sense of altruism.

"At the end of the day, I'm a New York City citizen," Tellez said. "I want to make sure I do my part."


The Winners

Citymapper Provides A to B journey planning with real-time information on subways, buses and bikes across all five boroughs. Also provides information on disruptions, alert you when to get off the bus, give you hyperlocal weather and personalize the app with your most visited places.

SubCulture.FM Lets riders identify subway musicians by providing bar codes – known as QR codes – to each musical group to display during live performances and that riders can scan with their smartphone.

Transit App Tells users about nearby transit routes and departure times. See in real time the current locations of desired trains or buses and use the trip planner to route your next destination.

AccessWay A way-finding app that assists the blind and visually impaired with navigating the subway system. Incorporates both Bluetooth LowEnergy Smart Sensor and Wi-Fi technologies to talk to a user’s device and deliver audio messages regarding their surroundings – such as which platform the user is on. Also provides real-time train arrival times and service changes.

Bus NYC Provides users with live departure and arrival times, full timetables for selected routes, service advisories, bus route maps and trip planners among others. Many of Bus NYC’s features also function without Wi-Fi, allowing users to plan while they are underground.

Moovit Provides MTA schedules, real-time next arrival, info planning and navigation. Users have the ability to contribute to the data by sharing their MTA experiences.