A couple of weeks ago, I attended Code for Philly’s transportation hackathon. I worried that it might be a little foolish to participate since I have barely used SEPTA’s services, but it ended up being a lot of fun.

One of the proposed ideas that I found most interesting was to create a Philadelphia version of MBTA Ninja. So I spent most of the weekend hacking with a few other developers, urban planners, and other transportation enthusiasts.

The project we were able to build in a weekend, SEPTA Ninja, is a fork of MBTA Ninja. Riders of SEPTA lines can quickly check on the app whether the lines they ride have any delays or outages (like elevators or escalators not working) . The information about a line or a station’s status is entirely user-generated. The app is mobile-friendly, so in just a few taps, a rider can add a new issue or update an issue that had previously been submitted.

Issues on a line: Image of an issue on a SEPTA line

This was the first project I had worked on using Meteor, and I am excited about building some apps with it in the future. Another developer and I spent some time looking through the existing codebase to figure out how the basic structure of the app worked before we added any additional features.

One feature I helped build was a notification on the home screen about whether any lines had any delays or outages. Instead of having to navigate all the way to the line you’re interested in, you can now see as soon as you open the app whether things are running smoothly.

Delays and outages now show up on the home page: Image of notifications on front page of SEPTA Ninja

Working at a hackathon was a really fun experience and is useful for becoming a better developer. Via Slack, we talked about the codebase with one of the original creators of MBTA Ninja. Those of us with more coding experience got to work with some beginners and some people who are not coders. (Trying to explain and teach Git in a few hours is quite a fun challenge.) It was a great way to meet people, and I’m looking forward to seeing many of them at future Code for Philly events.

If you’d like to work on SEPTA Ninja, please fork the repository or submit an issue.