New York City subway riders who use Twitter to track the MTA’s live service updates may soon be out of luck as billionaire Elon Musk rolls out plans to charge firms for a key feature on the platform.
Over the weekend, the MTA said it briefly lost the ability to post its real-time updates for subway, train and bus service on Twitter due to what it described as “an API issue.” The issue was resolved by Saturday morning, when the MTA tweeted that its “access to the Twitter API has been unsuspended.”
Still, the fix could be short-lived. Musk announced in February that Twitter planned to begin charging accounts for access to its API system. The MTA told Bloomberg it was informed that paid service would take effect by the end of March – though the agency claims it was not given a specific date for when it could lose access.
“The MTA has never paid Twitter to communicate travel information to the public and will have no comment on speculation about why Twitter temporarily stopped — and rapidly reinstated — that flow during the weekend,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said a statement obtained by Bloomberg.
An application programming interface, or API, is a tool allowing multiple computer applications to talk with each other – in this case, in the form of updates on the status of key public transportation systems.
Access to Twitter’s API system is expected to be costly. Last month, Wired reported that the cheapest tier of the company’s planned “enterprise packages” for developer tools would cost $42,000 per month, while the most expensive would cost $210,000 per month.
Even the cheapest package would cost the cash-strapped MTA more than $500,000 per year.
The MTA wasn’t the only public agency to experience a loss of access.
San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit District system (BART) tweeted on Friday that it had received an email from Twitter noting it was “suspended from accessing its Twitter API.
“Twitter has been our most successful social platform. We have far more followers here than anywhere. We’ve gone viral many times for support of public transit and met incredible riders here. As we consider other platforms, we can’t help but feel disappointed by Twitter’s decision,” the agency added in another tweet.
Like the MTA, @SFBART later said that Twitter had unsuspended its access.
The Post has reached out to Twitter and the MTA for comment.
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