Hackathons

Stalk Your Favorite Subway Buskers With the Winner of the MTA’s Transit Hackathon

Now that we've got Wifi, let's put it to work.
Among the locations: Six subway stations. (Photo: flickr.com/anniemole)

Build me some apps to distract from the fact I’ve missed the train, again. (Photo: flickr.com/anniemole)

Your smartphone is useful for more than Bejeweled now that there’s Wifi in many stations, and the MTA is trying to use that connectivity to make your commute better. (Just don’t ask when your train is getting a countdown clock.)

This weekend, techies gathered in Brooklyn at NYU Poly’s MetroTech Center campus for the first official, MTA-approved transit hackathon. Participants threw together a total of 17 submissions judged by authorities like Rachel Haot, General Assembly cofounder Matt Brimer and AT&T New York president Marissa Shorenstein.

The winner, taking home a not-too-shabby $5,000 (fronted by AT&T): SubCulture.FM, which would make it easier for you to find singles from your favorite subway buskers. Musicians who sign up for the program get QR codes that’ll direct fans to a downloadable link.

Unfortunately, that woman who plays the Love Story theme on a recorder on the N train probably hasn’t released a single, and as yet, there’s no app for IRL muting your least favorite musicians.

Taking second place was MTA Sheriff, an app which would allow you to report subway problems like that one perpetually broken-down escalator, and third went to Accessway, which helps wheelchair-bound and visually-impaired folks get around the system.

This hackathon was actually just a kick-off. The winners are also now in the running for the App Quest competition, a virtual challenge that’ll run until late August, also sponsored by NYU Poly, AT&T and the MTA. Anyone who’s willing to work with an MTA data set or API can compete for an additional $40,000 in prize money.

Word to the wise: Anyone who hacked a way to block the urine smell would be idolized citywide as a hero.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com