An iPhone application that shows MBTA riders a map of all transit routes and the scheduled times for the next train, bus, or boat has won a prize in a contest organized by the state, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced today.
Cambridge-based Sparkfish Creative won the competition with their application, MassTransit. Most features are available without an Internet connection. Two additional features that find the closest stop and display T service alerts are available with a connection. The application can be downloaded to any iPhone or iPod Touch for $3.99.
The second-place winner, OpenMBTA, an open source application, offers users detailed route maps and scheduled arrival times and can be downloaded for free.
The new applications are bound to be a boon to MBTA riders who find themselves at the station, bus stop, or dock wondering when the next train, boat, or bus will come. And it could help them to make decisions about whether sometimes they should just get out of the subway and walk, which is the wisest move in some situations.
Chris Dempsey, assistant transportation secretary, estimated that the state saved tens of thousands of dollars by not having to pay an outside developer for the applications.
James Kebinger won the best data visualization portion of the 2009 MassDOT Developers Challenge with his animated rendering of the web of subway and commuter rail routes. Small dots representing trains crawl like ants along the lines, depicting MBTA rail activity over the course of 24 hours in just 90 seconds.
The winners were announced at the first annual MassDOT Developers Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They received a Charlie Card good for free MBTA travel for a year. They can also sell their apps on the Internet if they want.
Even more help may be on the way for MBTA riders waiting for buses. While the Sparkfish application tells users when the next bus is slated to arrive, a new application may soon be in the works that will tell riders when it will actually arrive.
Transportation officials said they were releasing a feed of real-time data for the T's busiest bus routes: Route 39, which serves Jamaica Plain, the Longwood Medical Area, and Back Bay in Boston; and Routes 111, 114, 116, and 117, which serve Haymarket Station, East Boston, Chelsea, and Revere.
Developers will be able to access the feed and incorporate real-time information into mobile phone and Web-based applications that help MBTA customers know the actual location and estimated arrival of their bus, state officials said.
The year-long trial program with the selected bus routes may be extended to a system-wide program in the future, Dempsey said.
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