Reinvent MTA Transparency

July 18, 2014

In a series of letters and meetings over the last two years, Reinvent Albany and our colleagues in the NYC Transparency Working Group have been pushing the MTA to become more transparent through a slew of specific recommendations. Yesterday, Reinvent Albany asked the newly convened MTA Transportation Reinvention Commission (TRC), to recommend to the MTA that that agency “adopt transparency as a core value.”

Our testimony noted that the MTA’s public image and coffers have suffered from its historical lack of fiscal and spending transparency. When the public does not know how public money is being spent, it is less supportive of proving more funding. We outlined where the MTA needs to improve transparency, and how it can do so.

The MTA does not make available in a machine readable or “open data format” crucial information on:

  1. Their extensive real estate holdings, sales, purchases and leases.
  2. Details of professional fees, including legal and consulting services and bond underwriting.
  3. Contracts are in a 13,000 page pdf format that is difficult to use or analyze.
  4. Financial and budget briefings, voluminous documents converted from spreadsheets to non-usable pdf formats.
  5. Payments. State agencies report each payment online, the MTA does not.

The TRC’s next step will be to compile a report of recommendations to submit to the MTA so that the MTA can make the appropriate considerations for its Capital Plan which will be submitted to the Capital Program Review Board by October 1. We hope that the TRC will strongly recommend what we and other members of the NYC Transparency Working Group have been advocating for years – that the MTA make transparency one of their defining values.