If you’re not a programmer, that title no doubt makes no sense to you. API stands for Application Programming Interface. In a nutshell, an API allows you to interact with data and applications. In the case of SEPTA, it means you can get the location of every single vehicle – except for the subways – on the network as well as their destination. It also means you have access to a lot of other things, like stop locations and schedules for said stops.
While SEPTA isn’t making all of their data public, they do make a significant portion of it public. If you use SEPTA’s iOS app and think it’s terrible, the entire code for the app is available on GitHub so you can go fix it. Ever wish it was easier to know when the bus was supposed to arrive? Go build an app to get the bus schedule for your location. Case in point, septa.hppr.co.
SEPTA knows quite well that they aren’t perfect, and they are listening. SEPTA’s funded by the government, which, unfortunately, means they don’t have a lot of money for nice things. I think that’s part of the reason SEPTA has made public what resources it has. They’re there so you can build a better SEPTA. And if you are, make SEPTA aware of it. A simple tweet to them can go a long way. They are much more helpful than you might expect. And they’re quite friendly.
That being said, SEPTA is run by humans. I personally know how easy it is to forget that sometimes when they mess up. But has there ever been a perfect public transit network? I’m sure even Japan’s isn’t, although it should certainly serve as a model for others. Well, minus the scene at rush hour. If you want a better SEPTA, offer feedback when they ask for it. Notify them of issues on Twitter. If you know how to program, go play with the API. SEPTA can’t build a better SEPTA alone.