Got a great idea for a Metro app? Join Metro’s Developer Challenge for a chance to win up to $2,000

Metro Developer Challenge

Apps. We used to call them computer programs back when computers were just for for geeks. Now they’re ubiquitous. Apple coined the phrase “there’s an app for that” and guess what, there is an app for virtually anything you can think of.

There’s even Metro apps – fifteen of them (not that we’re counting) plus Metro’s very own iPhone app. But where’s that killer transit app? The app that takes all the free data Metro provides and weaves it into a a user experience that would make Steve Jobs’ jaw drop? Where’s the app the pulls people from their cars and onto Metro because it’s just that cool?

Somewhere there’s a developer who has that killer Metro app idea and just needs an excuse to go for it – this is where Metro’s Developer Challenge comes in. Beginning April 1st, developers can submit apps that make use of Metro’s transit data (and yes, that includes the fresh new real-time bus arrival data) for the chance to win up to $2,000. That’s $2,000 plus the fact that you’ll be making an app that will improve the transit experience for potentially millions of L.A. County residents.

Metro will be holding a Q&A/kick-off event for interested developers next Thursday from 6 to 7:30pm at Metro Headquarters. It’s a chance for hopeful developers to come meet with the data providers and get the skinny on contest. For those who can’t make it in person, the event will also be live-streaming on uStream. College students: here’s a link to printable flyer to spread the word on campus.

More details on the contest after the jump.

Metro’s reach is massive, and it’s unlikely one transit app can do it all (although you’re welcome to try). With that in mind the Developer Challenge welcomes submissions into the following categories, and each comes with its own prize:

  • Mobile App
    An application functional on a mobile device utilizing Metro transit. Developers are encouraged to incorporate recreational themes such as nightlife, food & dining, landmarks, etc., and can include GIS data.
    Prize: $2,000.00
  • Mobile App – College
    An application functional on a mobile device utilizing Metro transit data and information from one or more college.
    Prize: $2,000.00
  • Web Mashup
    A website or webpage utilizing Metro transit and/or GIS data displaying data in a visual manner: charts, graphs and interactives. Other data sets, including public data, collected data, etc., can also be incorporated.
    Prize: $2,000.00
  • Web Mashup – Mapping
    A website or webpage utilizing Metro transit data and/or GIS data displaying a map.
    Prize: $2,000.00
  • Next Bus Mobile App
    An application functional on a mobile device utilizing bus arrival data from NextBus; Metro transit data or other data sets can be incorporated as well.
    Prize: $1,500.00

Submissions will be judged by members of Metro’s technology and design staff who will be looking for the apps that make the best use of Metro’s transit data along with originality, design and usefulness.

Developers will be able to play with a number of data types including real-time arrival data from NextBus, schedule data in the Google Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) format, Metro’s Trip Planner API, GIS mapping data and Bikeways data.

A few more important notes:

  • Individuals or teams may enter, but only one prize will be awarded to teams.
  • Submitted apps must remain free during the Developer Challenge and for a year after the winners are announced.
  • Contestants retain the rights to their apps – Metro doesn’t own them.
  • The deadline for submission is May 20, 2011.

For more information and the official rules, please visit

6 replies

  1. As someone who has co-founded both transportation nonprofit & tech startups, I really am excited to hear about this effort. Big kudos to Metro for doing this.

    I’ve posted a link to this on Hacker News, the site popular with programmers, to try to help get the word out:

    (Hacker News, originally called Startup News, is run by Y Combinator, the extremely highly respected tech startup early stage funding firm behind companies like Scribd, Reddit,, Dropbox, and Posterous. They, like many programmers, use “hacker” in its good sense, to mean someone who programs and creates new things (like transit apps!), not the bad sense of “hacker” used in the mainstream press.)

    If you’ve got an account there, please vote it up so it’s seen (or create an account and upvote it (click the triangle up arrow on the left)), so more people see the post.

  2. Thomas, the only subway station with cellular access is, interestingly, Wilshire/Vermont. I’ve gotten reception on the lower platform.

  3. p.s. to previous comment: Okay, so you’d have to have an RFID chip installed on your phone to TAP through the gate, like they do in Japan.

    But adding cash to a TAP or checking the value online shouldn’t be that hard.

  4. Apps have more value when there is WiFi service. What Metro should do is enable such access in all areas where it is currently not available. Subways, trenches, underpasses, etc.

  5. It’s a site, not an app, but I have high praise for Darwin O’Connor’s TransSee.

    You have to have some knowledge about the system, but it’s great for veteran users.

    It builds upon NextBus feeds, and it gives real-time to-the-second positions of the buses themselves. It even gives the 4-digit bus number that will arrive.

  6. I’m no tech whiz, and this is outside the scope of the contest, but Metro needs a TAP app.

    Something that would let iPhone users check their TAP status, or add to their balance (assuming TAP ever gets a link to credit cards), or even TAP through gates, TAP their phones to the readers.

    These are functions that other smart cards have.