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

34 mins ago - Podcasts

The art and business of political polling

The election is just eight days away, and it’s not just the candidates whose futures are on the line. Political pollsters, four years after wrongly predicting a Hillary Clinton presidency, are viewing it as their own judgment day.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the polls, and what pollsters have changed since 2016, with former FiveThirtyEight writer and current CNN politics analyst Harry Enten.

Twitter launches warnings on election misinformation and delays

Photo: courtesy of Twitter

Twitter will start pinning notices to the top of all U.S. Twitter users’ timelines warning that results in next week’s election may be delayed and that they may encounter misinformation on mail-in voting.

Why it matters: Delayed election results are expected across many states that are handling unprecedented amounts of absentee and mailed ballots, which President Trump has baselessly called "very dangerous" and "corrupt."

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
3 hours ago - Science

NASA confirms water exists on sunny parts of the Moon


Water on the Moon might be more easily accessible than previously thought, opening up new possible avenues for future human exploration, according to a new study.

Why it matters: NASA is aiming to send people back to the Moon as part of its Artemis program by 2024, with plans to eventually create a sustainable presence on the lunar surface. That sustainability relies on mining the moon for its resources, like water.