Transit smartphone apps: A wishlist from New Yorkers

(Nancy Borowick)

(Nancy Borowick) (Credit: (Nancy Borowick))

The MTA is among the most tech-savvy public transit agencies in the country, having held a hackathon this week to develop apps with its data, but some New Yorkers still want more.

There are dozens of smartphone and Web apps that use the vast amount of data the MTA releases, and the agency actively tries to expand that ecosystem.

But insatiable straphangers still want more, whether those apps would make commutes easier or simply more entertaining.

"The continuing enhancement of smartphone applications is helping New Yorkers travel easier via mass transit," City Council Transportation Committee chairman James Vacca said.

We caught up with some New Yorkers and asked what their dream smartphone transit app would be, and this is what they said:

Peter Vallone, chair of the council's public safety committee: Vallone has pushed for a so-called "wall of shame" in subway stations, which would post photos of convicted sex offenders.

"Since they won't do that yet, I think they should have an app where you can look for convicted subway offenders, so you can look out for them," he said.

Amy Yakuboff, who runs the MTA parody Twitter account @WeHateTheMTA: "Live subway times: The MTA is taking forever in installing those countdown clocks, so something that could work underground to alert us as to when a train is coming would be ideal."

Josh Oswald and Reed Jackson, who run the MTA Twitter parody account @FakeMTA:

"My dream app would be a voice-changing app that makes everything you say sound like the Stand Clear of The Closing Doors Guy," Oswald said.

"It would of course have no practical use, but it would be great to walk around the city, ordering slices in that guy's voice."

Reed added: "My dream app would be something along the lines of a delay explainer: You type in the train or bus, and it gives you an explanation of why it's so late. 'A jacka -- with a green messenger bag blocked the doors of the fifth car three times in succession.' "

Ben Widdicombe, editor-in-chief of Gilt City: "I want an app that can reserve the seat closest to the door on an empty bench of three seats, like Open Table."

Cate Contino of the Straphangers Campaign: "We want them to put new databases online, and the ones we're predominantly interested in are lost and found incidents that happen . . . as well as their Passenger Environment Survey [and] make their fiscal budget documents more user-friendly."

Other suggestions included new approaches to transit alerts, complaints and incidents, countdown clocks and rider opinion polls.

Peter Gallina, 31, of Bushwick: I want an app "showing which stations have bathrooms."

Bianca Augustin, 35, of Park Slope: "I would like the bus Real Time to be at more stops, that's usually more accurate than the time table."

Derek Flanzraich, the founder and CEO of Greatist. com: "My ideal app is one that simply shares the balance on your MetroCard with a smart notification system to, you know, avoid those mornings when you get on a bus, have no money on your card, and you're blocks away from the nearest subway station kiosk."


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