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MTA Announces App Contest Winners

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MTA chairman Joseph Lhota with App Quest winners - Feb 2, 2012 (credit: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880)

MTA chairman Joseph Lhota with App Quest winners – Feb 2, 2012 (credit: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -  The MTA says subway ridership is at its highest level since 1950, and wants to improve service, so the agency decided to take advantage of new technology.

“Our customers are desirous of when they get down on a track, when is it going to get here or at a bus stop, when is my bus going to get here, and that’s the critical part of it,” said Joseph Lhota, MTA Chairman and CEO.

“We have a lot of raw data about when our trains are coming, our subways are coming, we wanted to get it into the hands of as many people as possible,” he told CBS 2′s Dana Tyler.

The MTA provided the tech community with data and let developers create the best apps for mobile phones, a competition called MTA AppQuest, and announced the winners Thursday.

WCBS 880′s Paul Murnane On The Story

Among the 11 winners is Embark NYC, created by a group of 20-somethings led by David Hodge.

They have a system that uses your smartphone’s GPS, even underground, and it navigates your trip when you punch in a destination.

“It helps you plan trips from A to B. You can find nearby stations,  you can get alerts when the lines you use are running late or have some sort of delay.and it works underground,” Hodge said.

Hodge claims over 100,000 people have already downloaded his app.

Second place went to Free NYC Subway Locator which calculates the nearest actual subway entrances to your current location.

Third place went to Notify Me NYC which notifies you if your subway, Metro-North or LIRR train is experiencing service problems.

A panel of nine judges evaluated a total of 42 applications, which are all available for downloading.

“We had to think about things like how fast do New Yorkers walk, how long does it take to transfer at certain stations,” Hodge said.

There are more than three dozen apps you check out at the MTA’s website.

Among other things, some wake you to the news that your subway line has been hit with delays. Some track dead escalators and tell smokers how much time they have left for a final drag.

With one, thanks to Frank Traina, you can open your iPhone camera and find the nearest subway.

“You scan the streets and, based on the GPS location, we’re superimposing the station names over your picture,” he said.

“There’s this burgeoning community of young folks who really understand technology. There are generational issues in this part of the world,” MTA chairman Joseph Lhota told WCBS 880 reporter Paul Murnane on Thursday.

Lhota says they’re working on systems to provide riders up-to-the-moment information.

As for the day when there is one simple thing for all things MTA, he says, they’re working on that too.

Though Brandon Kessler, who helped the MTA collect and collate this technology, had this to say on that issue.

“To create the simplest user experience, you want different apps that focus on different things and do it as simply as possible,” he said.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments section below!

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