Redesigned MTA website and more coming Wednesday

The quest for open transit data in New York continues, but the Times’ coverage today of the upcoming launch of the MTA’s new website gives cause to be optimistic. As the Times reports, the MTA is set to launch a redesign of its website this Wednesday, giving the agency’s site a much needed — and appreciated — overhaul. The overall design of the site looks to be greatly improved, and the subway service status on the front page is alone reason to celebrate, as anyone who’s been bitten by weekend service changes will surely understand.

Another welcome change is the addition of the trip planner to the front page. Interestingly, the default option now uses Google’s transit planner, though the screenshots reveal that you’ll also be able to plan trips using either Trips 1-2-3 or the in-house MTA trip planner.

The most exciting part for open data geeks though is this promising morsel:

The new site will also make it easier for outside software designers to get free access to system timetables and routes.

The article contains no further information about what this means, though the screenshot does show a “Developer Resources” link on the lower right-hand corner of the page.

The MTA has hinted for a while at changes to its developer and licensing policies, but beyond theĀ cessationĀ of legal threats last August, there’s been virtually no public announcements on the topic. Many people, including those of us here at TOPP who founded the NY Open Transit Data group, have long advocated and worked to open up New York’s transit data. We’ve had increasingly positive interactions with the MTA, particularly since the arrival of chairman and CEO Jay Walder last October, but are still waiting to see results.

It’s unlikely that the launch on Wednesday will be perfect, but I think it will prove to be a significant step toward the goal so many of us share: universal access to free, complete, and up-to-date transit data for New York.

It looks like it’s going to be a good week for open data.