Watchdog Thanks MTA For Budget Transparency Website


Testimony of Rachael Fauss, Reinvent Albany
Before MTA Board
Re: Praise for MTA Release of Budget Information in Open Data
October 23, 2019
Good morning. I am Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst for Reinvent Albany. We advocate for more transparent and accountable state government, including state authorities like the MTA.

We would like to thank the MTA, in particular Chairman/CEO Foye and his team, for beginning to fulfill a long-time request from the advocacy community for providing more MTA fiscal information in an open data format. We are glad to see the MTA has published a large amount of open budget data via its new Budget Transparency website.

We appreciate Chairman Foye’s work to start making good on his pledge from April 2019 to overhaul the MTA’s open data and Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) processes. Dating back to 2012, Reinvent Albany and members of the NYC Transparency Working Group, co-chaired by Reinvent Albany and Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, asked the MTA in writing and in meetings with Bob Foran to make financial data provided in the board books available in spreadsheet form.

For the first time, components of the MTA’s budget have been publicly released in machine-readable Excel format via the MTA’s new Budget Transparency website. This follows the MTA’s release of a spreadsheet of the 2020-2024 Capital Budget project list in September 2019. These are the first steps of what we hope will be much more open data released by the MTA, and a renewed commitment to comply with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 95 of 2013, which created the NYS Open Data portal.

In Reinvent Albany’s Open MTA report from May of this year, we identified releasing more open data as one important step that the MTA can take to renew public trust. We hope that the MTA will expand upon this by overhauling FOIL, improving upon its capital dashboard for the 2020-2024 Capital Program to make it more complete and user-friendly, and releasing even more open data. The Board books alone have a vast amount of tabular data that could be easily published in an open data format, such as on diversity of the workforce, ridership, overtime, fare evasion, and more.

Again, thank you, and we look forward to more work by the MTA on transparency in the weeks and months ahead.