Testimony to MTA Board: Building on MTA Open Data’s Recent Progress


Testimony to MTA Board

Re: Building on MTA Open Data’s Recent Progress

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. 

We were glad to see the MTA publish its open data plan, including a data catalog with an accompanying schedule – the first major milestone under the new MTA Open Data Law. We recommend that the catalog be published on the state’s open portal, not just the MTA’s website. It also should include all datasets published on the portal.

Since the law was signed by Governor Hochul in October 2021, the MTA has grown the number of datasets on the open data portal from 76 to 118. Additionally, 41 more datasets will be added to the portal by the end of 2023. This will more than double the amount of data available on the open data portal – an important achievement. 

Quantity is important, but so is quality. Crucial data on the catalog includes:

  1. Ridership data – The MTA will publish historic and projected ridership data, as well as daily ridership compared to pre-COVID levels. The MTA will publish Metrocard and OMNY usage data, and occupancy data for the commuter railroads and buses, which reflect crowding rates. 
  2. Capital program data – The MTA plans “enhancements” to capital dashboard data, and will publish open data for its 20-Year Needs Assessment in 2023. We ask the MTA to meet with advocates about these enhancements, and ensure that dashboard data includes contract numbers and vendors, and separately codes accessibility and resiliency projects.
  3. Service data – The MTA will add current service data and alerts to its open data portal, and will newly include end-to-end running times for the subways and buses: this should be expanded to the commuter railroads as well.
  4. Financial and workforce data – The MTA will add data related to its operating budget, including total debt outstanding and farebox recovery data, as well as overtime, diversity, and other workforce and staffing  information. We encourage the MTA to expand this to include all data in the financial plans and board books. 

We thank the MTA staff for their efforts so far, and are encouraged that you plan to automate release of data, which will make the open data plan more sustainable. It is also important that you view the open data plan as a “living document,” subject to additional public feedback and expansion. Thank you for your consideration.