MTA Should Be a Leader on Hybrid Public Meetings, Publish Open Data on Staff Vaccinations, and Expedite FOILs


Testimony to MTA Board

September 15, 2021

Re:  MTA Should Allow Real-Time Remote Comments, Publish COVID-19 Workforce Vaccination Data Online as Open Data, and Expedite FOILs

Good morning. I am Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst for Reinvent Albany. We advocate for more transparent and accountable New York government, including for authorities like the MTA.  

First, as the MTA continues to hold public meetings during COVID, we would like to thank the board and staff for allowing public comments both in-person and remotely. We believe the MTA is ahead of the curve here, and we are holding up the MTA as a best practice for hybrid public meetings.

What the MTA does going forward with its meetings may set a standard for other government agencies. We like citing the MTA as a leader, and we ask that you allow remote public comment to be provided in real time for your October meeting. Much can happen in one day, and it does not make sense to have comments delivered in person be real-time while remote comments must be recorded a day early.

Second, we ask the MTA to provide open data regarding the vaccination rates of its workforce, disaggregated by type of worker, including front facing employees, police officers, etc. per Board Member Neal Zuckerman’s request at Monday’s Safety Committee meeting. We note that when this information was requested by a reporter in July for MTA police officers, it was stated that it would be a HIPAA violation. We do not agree, as making aggregate information available regarding public workers does not concern HIPAA, and the MTA already provides vaccination data by agency. 

Reinvent Albany and other watchdog groups sent a letter to Governor Hochul earlier this month asking that all COVID-19 data be made available as open data. Greater transparency regarding COVID-19, including employee vaccination rates, will help restore trust in  government and help researchers, journalists and the public better understand the dire pandemic that has cost us loved ones and colleagues and continues to upend everyday life. 

Third, we also hope and expect that the MTA will participate in Governor Hochul’s work to expedite FOIL requests and post the completed FOIL requests online, as announced in her very first speech as Governor. We called for this in our OpenMTA report which was released in 2019.

Thank you for your consideration.