DN Editorial: Some apps for a better transit system

Posted: October 07, 2011

DATA IS the new black.

So color us surprised that of all agencies, SEPTA is ahead of the fashion curve by offering its data to software developers and helping to sponsor a "hackathon" this weekend in which software developers will try to develop useful applications for the transit system.

Actually, what's also trendy is the notion that "hacking" is losing its bad-boy image for destruction and becoming a useful tool for the public good. Like similar hackathons held around the city, SEPTA's is a "civic coding event" that gets smart people in a room for a limited time to find technical solutions to problems. And SEPTA could use some solutions.

While participants in the weekend's hackathon will be primarily technical, Devnuts, a group promoting "hackerprenuers" and its sponsors also welcome "normal people" who may have ideas to make transit data more useful. We asked a few "normal people" here at the Daily News for apps we'd like to see:

* Please hack us a 24-hour subway system, at least on the weekends.

* Please hack us paper bus schedules in all SEPTA stations.

* Hack us some smart cards!

* And token sales at all stations.

* How about a SafeStop app: Bus and el stops overlaid with crime data to help us get home safely when it gets dark.

* A QuietRide app that silences everyone around you.

* An OxyClean app that eliminates urine odors from stations.

* An app that identifies the location of all the patchouli vendors in the system.

There is also an open Googlegroups page called Septadev. Website: www.appsforsepta.org

Meanwhile, other agencies and departments in the city should follow SEPTA's lead and hold hackathons in the future. We need an app that guarantees a Phillies win.

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