Michael Zaleski, SEPTA's director of emerging and specialty technology, said, "The goal is to establish a developer community centered around our data and engage in open dialog about it."
In recent years, SEPTA has launched a host of travel- and schedule-related travel tools through its website, Twitter and Facebook. Schedule and trip planning tools are also available on Google Transit. The push to improve accessibility to this information, however, continues — both inside and outside of the transit authority.
"We realized that developers would find a way to get our data and create apps, so we decided to provide the data in an easy format and to work with the developers to meet their needs," Zaleski said. "It's a great way to make sure that the data riders get is accurate."
The Hackathon event — appropriately — "started with a Tweet," said Zaleski, who has long worked with outside developers on the shared goal of creating new tools that serve SEPTA riders.
On October 8, 2011, Zaleski and other SEPTA representatives met with dozens of private developers on their turf at Devnuts, a Web development space in Northern Liberties, a burgeoning Philadelphia neighborhood that is at the epicenter of the local tech movement.
"Our participation allowed us to respond to developers’ needs while expanding our API (application programming interface) offerings," Zaleski said. "We were very pleased by the turn out and enthusiasm, but was most impressed by the talent that participated. The community has been very supportive and the response has been nothing but positive. As these apps make their way into the general public, that positive spirit goes with them."
Zaleski said he's excited about what's been created since the Hackathon, and what's to come.
"The results have been pretty amazing," he said. "We're seeing our data integrated into dozens of creative applications."
"Although most are intended for riders, there are others that do a range of things from performing analytics to using an Xbox to interact with the data," Zaleski added. "We're planning on releasing more data, formalizing our API framework and putting together an ‘App Showcase,’ a place where developers can submit their apps and have them listed on the SEPTA website."
Working with outside developers furthers SEPTA's overall goal — through social media and other avenues — of improving communications with customers.
"These efforts increase the number of communication channels by which riders can get information," Zaleski said. "More channels means more options for riders to choose how they interact with the data."
Fort Worth, Texas
The T (Fort Worth Transportation Authority)
Assistant Vice President of Marketing
Social Media: The T’s way to partner and engage with the Fort Worth community
Social media has fundamentally changed the way The T communicates with its audiences, offering real-time, two-way communication and new opportunities to engage customers and build brand loyalty. In addition to advertising, marketing and public relations, we now can speak directly to our customers via social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. All businesses and organizations — including ours and the ones we partner with — benefit from social media because the “fans” and/or “followers” ultimately become “brand ambassadors.”
At The T, we recognize the importance of being able to talk directly with our fans, which, in turn, sparks further conversations and other discussions about public transportation. While many transportation agencies throughout the United States use social media to provide information about their bus and rail services, schedule changes and updates, and other “news”-related items, The T’s social media efforts are more heavily focused on our local community and the events and goodwill in and around Fort Worth and the North Central Texas region.
Most of our social media outreach is invested toward positively impacting our relationships with our community. Our Facebook posts are meant to create fun and casual conversations, such as ways to improve local air quality; encourage goodwill; enhance education; build community partnerships; and promote local festivals, events, entertainment, sports and other community initiatives.