Watchdog Praises MTA CEO’s Pledge to Revamp FOIL and Open Data Processes

Group Presents Extensive Recommendations for MTA Transparency
Transparency watchdog group Reinvent Albany praised today’s pledge by MTA CEO/Chair Pat Foye to revamp the MTA’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and Open Data processes as a first step towards increasing transparency and accountability at the state’s biggest authority.

“We thank CEO/Chair Pat Foye for pledging to substantially improve the MTA’s dreadful FOIL and open data processes. Foye is completely right that the MTA needs to hugely improve transparency as part of regaining the public’s trust and confidence. We look forward to supporting Foye and his team as they make MTA more open and accountable,” said John Kaehny, Executive Director of Reinvent Albany.

In a series of meetings and letters dating back to 2012, Reinvent Albany and transit and government watchdog groups have repeatedly asked the MTA for significant improvements to its open data and FOIL efforts.

Reinvent Albany recently issued a report that includes comprehensive recommendations for making the MTA more open and transparent (see below).

Reinvent Albany Recommendations for MTA FOIL and Open Data

  • Open by Default: Confirm MTA philosophy per NYS Public Officers Law that the MTA is “open by default.” In other words, information is open to the public unless there is a good reason it should not be.
  • Open the Data: Put all tabular data from budget, board books, performance dashboards, contracts online in a machine readable, downloadable, common format. Stop using pdf image files and locking tabular data in pdf documents. All data in performance dashboards should be open data. (Appoint open data manager to facilitate and foster open data release.)
  • Adopt Single OpenFOIL Process for All Agencies/Subsidiaries: Good examples are Port Authority and LA Metro. Review FOIL requests and make sure frequently requested records are online.
  • Clear FOIL Backlog: It is common to wait over a year for FOILed information.
  • OpenContracting: deliverables, RFPs should be online in a single place with contract numbers clearly connected to funding source and project.

Click here to view the full report.