The notoriously data prudish M.T.A. may have recanted its cease-and-desist letter to app developers in favor of one of those in vogue app competitions so popular with open governments these days, but that doesn’t mean the agency is giving up the good stuff.
Transit Nation reports that for the M.T.A.’s ongoing App Quest competiton (the public currently voting on 42 apps, which will be rewarded $15,000 in prizes), the M.T.A. did not expose data collected by the subway platform countdown clocks. The clocks, which report the actual time a train arrives, as opposed to the time that they’re scheduled to get there, could make apps much more valuable.
Even data like train schedules and how many riders go through the turnstiles at each station was off limit until January, 2010, when the M.T.A. buckled to pressure from developers. According to Transportation Nation, the M.T.A. doesn’t seem to have a good explanation for holding back this time either:
“MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the authority knows the data is desirable but there’s no plan for releasing it except that “it’s on our to-do list.” An MTA staff member who didn’t want to be identified said the authority’s priority is to add more countdown clocks and put GPS devices on city buses to let riders know when the next bus will reach their stop.”
Once the agency comes to its senses, Betabeat would like to request a mobile version of the countdown clock that incorporates elements of these above ground service change screens. As we exited the turnstile this morning, we saw a guy ripping down a paper sign about scheduled changes. Maybe that’s why riders are always the last to know when their line is being a Grinch.