Once the largest transit agency without open data, New York City's MTA embraced developers by making its data feed available to all. Now it's going a step further by organizing an unconference for developers. Further, the event will be hosted at the New York offices of Google, a long supporter of open transit data.
The unconference will include MTA announcements, as well as chances to chat up the employees behind the data, Google's Mike Pegg wrote:
Are you a geo developer with an interest in creating the next wave of transit tools and mashups for mobile devices and the web? If so, we'd love to see you at the first ever "Unconference for Developers" put on by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and hosted at our very own Google New York office. The event takes place May 5, 2010, from 6:30 to 10 PM.
New MTA data sets will be released and representatives from all MTA agencies will be on hand to answer your questions.
Transit applications have become popular (we list 89 transit mashups), especially as smart phones have given users a better mobile experience. Now there are devices to display stop times and routes in various formats, riders require more choice. Embracing developers is much easier for transit agencies than creating many applications on their own.
Portland's Trimet (our Trimet API profile) has benefitted from supporting developers, with many trip planning apps available on various platforms. Google developed the GTFS format now used by over 400 agencies in partnership with Trimet, as we covered in 2008.
Now MTA has an opportunity to lead the next stage of open transit data, starting with the developer event next month. Already the agency has made its GTFS data available this year. This was not the case when we wrote about Jehiah Czebotar, an NYC-based developer trying to open transit data. Czebotar points to several positive steps the MTA took recently, including sharing schedule and other data.
The improved communication with developers is the most promising sign, according to Czebotar. "These steps now put the MTA ahead of many other transit agencies in terms of communicating with developers," he said.
With the MTA's technical team on hand for the developer unconference, we're bound to see more of this communication. And that can only mean even better transit apps.