MTA’s Split Personality: Open Transit Data Innovator or Opaque Bureaucracy?


We set-off to write a post lauding the MTA on its technology leadership. The peg was the upcoming release of countdown clock data to apps developers, and a smart bureaucratic workaround MTA used to hire a cutting edge open source software developer to get the data out.  This innovative project was reported today on the always insightful Second Avenue Subway blog.  Unfortunately, our enthusiasm was dashed as soon as we went to find details in the March 28, 2012  MTA board briefing book.

So much for the happy glow of openness and transparency. The MTA’s 330 page board briefing book  is an unsearchable, pdf formatted, image.  The briefing book is not search able from the Internet, nor is the document itself searchable from the Adobe pdf search box.  Essentially, the MTA is hiding information in plain sight by making it extremely unwieldy to find.  The MTA should make the briefing book and all other information on its website web searchable (“machine readable”) and down-loadable in formats that common document and spreadsheet programs can read.  The MTA is shooting itself in the foot by playing games like posting giant documents as scanned, unsearchable images. This only serves to antagonize the public, and perpetuates the idea that the MTA has something to hide.


the to install cloud-based infrastructure and a web application that will allow the MTA to offer a real-time feed of train location data to the public.