New York has expanded its statewide open data initiative with the addition of more than 100 new data sets, maps and charts to Open.NY.gov -- an addition that could help developers create new apps for traveling more efficiently in the state.

The site officially launched in March, and when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this change on Wednesday, July 24, he noted it will continue to receive further updates as additional data sets become available.

The newly published transportation data comes from state agencies such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. The data sets provide information on the New York City subway entrances and exits, which also includes division, line, station name and location.

“This information provides a detailed resource that New Yorkers, researchers and businesses can use to study the state’s transportation networks and agencies,” Cuomo said in a statement.

And developers can harness this type of data for creating mobile applications that help guide subway riders find where the station entrances and exits are based off their physical location identified on their smartphone, said New York Chief Data Officer Barbara Cohn. With real-time mapping, riders might have an easier time navigating the multiple entrances and exits in a subway station. 

Other data sets now available on Open.NY.gov include the New York State Canal System Boat Launches Map, which shows existing segments the NYS Canalway Trail and locations of canal system boat launches.

Cohn felt public transportation is key for not only commuting within the state, but also for traveling around the nation and abroad.

“Transportation is vital to New York state,” Cohn said. “And it connects us not only within the state, but throughout the nation and throughout the world."

Start of a Trend

New York's open data portal isn't unique. Other states have launched similar initiatives in an effort to promote transparency in government. Hawaii's open data site made its debut earlier this month. Supported by Socrata, the portal features approximately 150 different data sets.

According to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit watchdog focused on government transparency, municipal agencies have been embracing open data policies regularly since 2009. But it was President Barack Obama's Executive Order mandating that federal agencies must generate public data in open machine-readable formats that has spurred state governments to create their own open data portals.

Laurenellen McCann, the foundation’s national policy manager, said only a few states have passed laws regarding open data so far: Hawaii, Utah and New Hampshire.

But the trend identified by the Sunlight Foundation is that governments tend to disclose only a few different sets of data from a specific department, leaving information from a majority of departments still unpublished.

“If they make progress in one department, that should be celebrated,” McCann said. “And yet it doesn’t get that government off the hook for not releasing other kinds of information.”

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.