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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.

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CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

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John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”