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The Ultimate Excuse Generator For New Yorkers

Holiday party you're dreading? People who can read a little bit of code can find the longest way there.

The Ultimate Excuse Generator For New Yorkers

[Image: Flickr user Basheer Tome]

As a few of you know, the MTA has a "delay verification" to print off subway delay confirmations. But let's say you want to abuse the delay verification service and find the slowest routes to your destination—presumably as an excuse to miss something you don't want to go to. Some company Christmas party you're dreading? Some messy family gathering you'd prefer to nap through?

Well, the official excuse verification system is inadequate because you have to do it after the fact. The web tool, the excuse generator, was introduced in 2010, but verifications can take hours or days to return. The New York Times followed up on the service’s progress, noting its nominal utility. If you're living in a world where lateness matters, like school, or court, or work, it's probably punishable on the spot. This is what you'd call a sub-optimal user experience, since you have to generate the excuse after the fact. If you want a truly useful excuse generator, you'll have to drink directly from the firehose.

Behold the MTA's real-time feed for delays and changes, which is free to use and updates every minute. Hitting this feed results prints all the delays in the city subway system with descriptions, as they evolve from minute to minute. In its municipal mercy, the data comes in .xml, which means any XML reader plugin will make sense of the madness—just search for the path "/service/subway/line/name" and find the line of your chosen subway. XML illiterate? Just CTRL+F for your line group (such as "ACE" or "NQR"). The status field will even tell you if you're facing delays or planned work. Then your alibi is solid.

At the moment, the delay verification only works for trains, but who knows when the verification will be extended to the colossal 230-line, 5,700-bus NYC bus system.