Brigade Award

MBTA Ninja

by Code for Boston (http://www.mbta.ninja/)

Inspired by the terrible weather and commuting woes of the 2015 Boston winter, MBTA Ninja is a crowdsourced alerting network for the Boston subway and commuter rail. Passengers can use their smartphones to report issues like delays, overcrowding, or disabled trains, and then view alerts posted by others in real time across the entire train system. Users can also upvote alerts to confirm them, or give the okay when things have cleared up, enabling the system to react instantaneously to rapidly changing conditions. MBTA Ninja supplements generic official emails with detailed, instant updates that reflect what subway riders are actually experiencing on the ground.

Why they won

In February 2015, in the middle of one of Boston’s biggest snowstorms, the Code for Boston team -- CfA’s volunteer Brigade-- gathered for the annual CodeAcross event. CodeAcross was cancelled in other cities because of bad weather, but not in Boston! This team slogged through and coded a winner.

On the way to the event (and that whole week), most of the team ran into long delays on the MBTA public transit system - and found that the information coming from the transit agency wasn’t accurate. But they knew that RIDERS knew what trains were late and how late they were, and realized they could help riders tell other riders.

The team built MBTA Ninja, a service that crowdsources MBTA delays and alerts in real-time - a sort of Waze for public transit. By making their service available as a mobile website and an Android app, this all-volunteer effort is now reaching 600 weekly users, and Code for Philly, Code for Poland, and the Port of Virginia are all redeploying the app.