Nothing will induce a cold sweat and nervous twitches quite like trying to hitch a ride on the MBTA after more than 100 inches of snow. Some locals were sick of catching that queasy feeling that occurs when rush hour looms nearer and decided to create a web app that aggregates public transit delays and information to keep fellow commuters informed on MBTA updates.
Dubbed MBTA Ninja and billed as “Waze for the T,” the app allows users, commuters, bystanders and passersby to provide details on any problems or issues they happen to encounter or witness, and alert others of them. Other users can then chime in with any missing or disputed aspects to the incident.
During a period when MBTA passengers are stranded on tracks for hours at a time, malfunctions result in canceled routes and rails are running at a reduced frequency, suffice it to say that if nothing else MBTA Ninja provides some peace of mind and a community-like structure for people suffering from similar transportation frustrations.
According to the site, MBTA Ninja was created by Geoffrey Litt, David Lago, and Radhika Malik for the Code Across Boston 2015 hackathon (put on by Code for Boston in conjunction with Code for America last weekend) and features the Red, Orange and Green Lines both inbound and outbound. The Orange and Green were brought into the fold on Monday night, according to BetaBoston.
BetaBoston notes that on its first day live, the app received 500 visitors who filed 60 reports of “packed trains, overcrowded platforms and delays.” They hope to build it out further at upcoming Code for Boston weekly sessions.
Co-Creator Geoffrey Litt told BostInno that on Tuesday, “The app had over 4,000 users and seems to be going viral.”
As is the case with most innovations, this was born of necessity.
Litt said that MBTA Ninja was conceived after several co-workers began sending text updates to each other during their rides down the Red Line, which happened to suffer worst at the hand of Mother Nature.
“We thought that what we were missing was real-time information about what was happening on the T,” he said. “The real problem was that when you get an [MBTA] alert, maybe there are some minor delays – but when you get to the platform there are hundreds of people already waiting.”
Essentially they hope to not only provide transit news, but anything related to T service such as overcrowded stations and, should the MBTA let the Ninja brass in on its existing data, things like GPS location tracking too.
“At the end of the day our goal is to make the most useful and reliable way to have information on what’s happening on the T, so that others can have an idea of what’s going on and having community knowledge,” added Litt, which is why you don’t see the Blue Line or bus routes pictured above.
The brains behind MBTA Ninja want to get as many people involved as they can, because they feel the most accurate and most expedient transit information is from the people privy to the situation.
They’re the ones experiencing the T’s woes (or hopefully, soon, lack thereof) after all, so Litt and his constituents’ attitude is quite simply, why no crowdsource it?