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Computer programmers at a hackathon in Miami. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Transportation agencies in San Antonio, Baltimore, Fairfax and the state of Delaware have hosted hackathons and open data challenges, as did the recent InnoTrans conference in Berlin. These are opportunities for programmers, coders and designers to turn their ideas into practical transportation solutions in the form of web and mobile apps, data visualizations and algorithms for improved transit performance.

The big picture: Transit systems across America have seen a steady decline in ridership over the past five years, with an average drop of 5% in bus ridership from 2016 to 2017. These hackathons are only one of the newest ways cities are approaching the modernization of their transportation offerings — in addition to connecting public transit with Uber and Lyft, hosting bike and scooter shares, and launching smart phone apps that plan and track public transit rides.

The winners of San Antonio VIA Metropolitan Transit's first GoCodeSA Codeathon produced an Amazon Alexa skill that integrates VIA’s real-time bus information with voice-activated commands from any Alexa device. The winning team this year developed an app that plans a round trip on the bus system based on the user’s interests and activities, such as dining, shopping and exploring.

In Delaware’s competition, one winner’s program allows qualified users to make paratransit appointments quickly on a phone app, as simply as ordering an Uber. A separate app plans routes by helping to replace a vehicular commute with biking (or by combining biking with public transport) — like Waze for cyclists. Users can add warnings and route suggestions.

Yes, but: While these tech-driven programs to improve transit ridership can help in many cities, they most likely won’t impact ridership in places like Washington, DC, and New York City, where the main causes of concern are aging rail infrastructure.

Why it matters: Transit leaders are hoping these innovations will not just grab headlines but actually make public transit a more appealing and easier option for riders.

Paul Comfort is vice president of business development at Trapeze Group and the former CEO of the Maryland Transit Administration in Baltimore.

Go deeper

50 mins ago - Sports

China pulls Celtics games after Enes Kanter criticizes Xi Jinping

Celtics center Enes Kanter. Photo: Jim Michaud/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

China will no longer stream Boston Celtics games after center Enes Kanter called Chinese President Xi Jinping a "brutal dictator" in a social media post over the Chinese government's repressive policies in Tibet, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: Kanter's criticism of Beijing has sparked another round of trouble for the NBA in China, one of its largest and most restrictive markets.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump's new venture could be peak SPAC

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Former President Trump last night announced plans to launch a digital media network called "Truth Social," and said it would go public via a SPAC called Digital World Acquisition (Nasdaq: DWAC).

What to know: So far, this is a joke. The press release didn't contain even basic information, such as the new company's CEO. In fact, the only execs mentioned are Trump (as chairman) and veteran TV producer Scott St. John as head of a subscription streaming service.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Tesla is outrunning the supply chain crunch

Expand chart
Data: FactSet and company release; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Tesla, citing a "structural shift" in demand for electric vehicles, reported its highest-ever quarterly profit of $1.6 billion and $13.8 billion in revenues despite supply chain problems.

The big picture: The company's third-quarter report says the chip shortage, port congestion and other woes have affected its factories but argues that "flexibility" and "ingenuity" are a counterweight.