subway Photo: The All-Nite Images/Flickr

New York City has been making enormous strides with its Open Data initiative, which promises to make city data from over 200 agencies accessible to the public by 2018. The City Council initially approved the law in 2012, and now over 1,350 datasets are available to the public, making NYC a leader in government transparency in the US.

However, some city agencies still haven’t released a single dataset.

BuzzBuzzHome reported on city agency progress in August, noting that the Metropolitan Transit Authority was far behind other agencies in the release of data, especially compared to the Department of City Planning and the Department of Education.

In the six weeks since that story was published, The City’s Dashboard shows that not much has changed. The MTA still only has four datasets available, and they’re not planning to release any in the future, either. 

Despite this, the MTA has actually put out a substantial amount of data, suggesting that perhaps the Dashboard numbers aren’t as dismal as they appear.

The law specifically requires each City entity to publish all of its data by 2018, but it doesn’t require them to release it on a regular basis. It also relies on agencies themselves to define what constitutes a single set of data, so a dataset could refer to  locations of services, investments, facilities, class listings or resource catalogs. Aggregated statistics, demographic information or budgets could also each be considered a single dataset.

The MTA has already released train and bus schedules, current service status, elevator and escalator status, and station and subway entrances. They have also made available real-time arrival estimates of railroad trains, subway trains and buses, as well as real-time vehicle geographic positions — though that data requires developers to register and receive an official code to access it.

Just this month, the MTA released several performance data sets, which include some not-so-flattering information about customer injuries, employee lost time and collisions. The organization even maintains a Google Group for developers and MTA representatives to discuss the release and use of its data. 

That said, it is clear that there’s still plenty of city information under wraps at the moment. Attempts by BuzzBuzzHome News to contact the MTA about future release scheduling went unanswered, but upcoming data should likely include more detailed information about budgets, salaries, lobbying disclosures and investments.

Open Data actively seeks feedback. Users of the website even have the option to suggest a dataset that they feel is missing, such as a list of cooling centers in the city or animal welfare information. Follow @bbhnyc as this story develops.

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