Citymapper, which uses real-time transit information to improve travel guides...

Citymapper, which uses real-time transit information to improve travel guides won grand prize for best overall app ($20,000) during the 2013 App Quest challenge, a global competition to develop new mobile tools that use real-time MTA data to improve commutes for millions of subway, bus and rail riders. Credit: Handout

Several mobile software developers have been recognized for taking on a tough but important task -- helping people get around New York.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and AT&T on Tuesday announced the winners of their 2013 App Quest challenge, which invited developers from around the world to come up with new and innovative mobile apps for the MTA's 2.6 billion annual customers.

"We're amazed at the creativity that we've seen from the development community, and their commitment to spend their own time and resources to develop it," MTA chairman and chief executive Thomas Prendergast said at the awards ceremony in Grand Central Terminal. "They've shown that if you have the know-how, the enthusiasm and the energy, you can do great things, once the information is made available."

Taking the grand prize of $20,000 for Best Overall App were the developers of Citymapper, which simplifies commutes with real-time information on subways, buses and even bicycle-sharing programs in New York City. The free app even provides local weather, disruption information, and can tell a user when to get off a bus.

The app currently includes only information on city buses and subways, but Citymapper founder and chief executive Azmat Yusuf, of London, said it will be expanded to include the Long Island Rail Road and other commuter rail carriers in the coming weeks.

"We don't consider any of these apps to ever be done. . . . As more data becomes available, we'll plug it in," Yusuf said. "We're committed to doing this really well. We want to be able to solve the everyday commute and transport problems of New Yorkers."

After years of fighting third-party apps, the MTA in 2010 adopted a policy of embracing developers by making available internal data on scheduling, performance, ridership and other information.

"At today's MTA we're working hard to free our data, because we know it's truly not our data," Prendergast said. "It's your data. It's the public's data."

The agency had its first App Quest challenge last year and received entries from 42 app developers. The winning app, Embark, was acquired by Apple last month for an undisclosed price.

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