MTA Transparency Plan Encouraging First Step, More Work to be Done on Open Data


Testimony to MTA Board
November 17, 2021

Re: MTA Transparency Plan Encouraging First Step
With More Work To Be Done on Open Data Compliance

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, we are encouraged by the MTA’s Transparency Plan that was sent to Governor Hochul on October 22, 2021. We reviewed a number of agency and authority transparency plans and the MTA’s is one of the most detailed. The MTA plan addresses open data, Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) responses, and the public comment process, among other topics. We encourage the MTA to post its transparency plan on its website, and make it a living document that is updated and notes progress made on its various timelines and metrics.

Importantly, the MTA’s transparency plan provides metrics and timelines for following through on its goals to increase transparency and public access to information, including:

  • Centralizing existing datasets on the NYS Open Data portal by December 2021;
  • Assigning a Data Coordinator by the end of 2021;
  • Providing a data catalog and publication schedule within 180 days; and
  • Developing a FOIL implementation plan by May 2022.

We again encourage the MTA to meet with legislators, transit advocates, researchers, journalists, civic technologists, and others, to determine what datasets should be published first.

While the MTA has released some financial data in more accessible formats, through its Budget Transparency portal for example, much more can be done to make its budget fully transparent. All tables of financial data provided in the Board materials and the financial plans should be released as open data, rather than only a segment of them.

We also note that the MTA chose to publish nearly all of today’s Finance Committee materials in pdf file format that is time consuming to manually enter into a spreadsheet. This is a small step backward for transparency at the MTA, since in prior months, more financial data for the Board meetings was released in excel format. Additionally, there have been past lags in posting data to the Budget Transparency portal and Capital Program Dashboard, with information not updated in a timely manner.

We hope that the effort to comply with the new MTA Open Data Law is an opportunity for the MTA to fully operationalize timely release of open data and make it a sustainable effort for MTA staff, and look forward to the release of your FOIL compliance plan and catalog and schedule for open data release.

Thank you for your consideration.