Sasha Kamenetska | Contributor
February 21, 2013

Better Transportation Through APIs


For those of us who live in cities, transportation networks are vital to our day-to-day activities.  Since I don’t have a car, I am wholly reliant on New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).   Thank god they have an API.

I know that sounds weird.  I should be grateful that the MTA has buses and subways that run all the time, and that its service is affordable, etc.  But, perhaps because I am an API nerd (there I said it), I am most grateful that my transportation network has an active API program

In all seriousness though, as great as MTA’s service is, it can also be incredibly frustrating.  Anyone who has taken the subway in NYC on a weekend, will know that service changes are frequent, and even if you know how to get from one place to another on a weekday, on the weekend, it’s a whole different story.  That is why I am grateful for the MTA API.  It has allowed apps to be built that update users on route and schedule changes.   The MTA even had an app challenge in 2011 that lead to 42 apps being created that helped transit users use the transit network more effectively.

New York’s MTA is not the only transit network to offer an API.  Many of the US’ largest cities have built an API for their transit system to make transportation easier to use for everyone. 

Washington D.C.’s WMATA has one of the most robust API programs out of all the major transportation systems.  They have a fully dedicated portal, and interactive documentation, which are still fairly rare for transportation APIs.

WMATA, MTA and all the other transportation authorities want to provide a good ride to their users.  APIs are just one tool they have to make that happen.  Buses, subways, roads, train tracks, etc. are all hard to change quickly, but an API can be updated at any time and provide information instantly.  Making an API easier for developers to use, in the end will make transportation easier for every day riders, and that’s definitely a great thing.