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The Age Of Transit Transparency

A study that examines the history of transit transparency -- the release of transit schedules, routes and real-time feeds for third-party use -- has been added to the Resource Center best practices database.

Released in June 2012, "Transit Transparency: Effective Disclosure through Open Data" was a project of Transparency Policy Project, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Taubman Center for State and Local Government and the Harvard Kennedy School.

"Changing course from customer-information strategies controlled entirely inside agencies to processes where agencies and developers played complementary roles in delivering customized information to riders constituted a significant shift for transit agencies," the researchers note.

The study looks at the experiences of five agencies:

  • Portland's TriMet, the first agency to make data publically available, working with Google to create open standards for transit data. The first data was released in 2006.
  • Boston's MBTA, an early adopter of open data, which released its first data in 2009.
  • Chicago's CTA, classified by researchers as one of the early majority of systems to allow public access to transit data, releasing its data in 2009.
  • Washington, DC, WMATA, classified a late majority adopter of transit data transparency, released its first data in 2009-2010.
  • New York's MTA, classified a late adopter, which didn't release its data until 2010

"Public disclosure of operations information was a novel approach for transit agencies," the researchers note. "They had not anticipated that outside developers — who were also transit riders — would be interested in working with the same raw data that engineers were using internally to manage such vast and complex transportation systems."

Read the executive summary and download the full report.