Google Transit is not about the $68,000, it's about openness
The Examiner got a few more details from WMATA on Tuesday about the Google Transit issue. They make $68,000 per year from ads on wmata.com, which is a pittance. DCist commenter Mainland pointed out that this comes to $186 per day. Surely Metro would get at least $186 per day in additional fare revenue from making it easier for people to find routes and schedules.
At today's Metro Board meeting, the staff will brief the Board on this issue. Unfortunately, they're doing it in executive session, so the public still doesn't get to participate in any sort of dialogue with them about this except through the petition. That's the thrust of what I plan to say during the allowed two minutes for public comment at the meeting:
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Board,
My name is David Alpert and I live in Washington DC. I run Greater Greater Washington .org, and along with Michael Perkins organized the Google Transit petition which generated 746 letters this past week.
These 746 people are baffled by Metro's resistance to releasing schedule data. But more importantly, they are frustrated by Metro's stonewalling on this and many other issues. We have tried to engage with you by emailing staff, speaking during public comment, and submitting PARP requests, but to no avail. Metro's culture seems inherently resistant to cooperation.
I realize that you are all very busy, and that everyone among the public fashions himself a transit expert. But Metro is a public agency, and the public deserves some way to have a dialogue with you. Yet even emails to the Board of Directors email address don't actually go to the Board.
Only after we did this petition did Metro staff finally explain their reasoning on Google Transit. We disagree, but at least now we can begin a real discussion. I was disappointed that some insinuated Google was behind the petition. They were not.
It's not just about Google Transit or $68,000 in ad revenue, but about openness of information. We should make this data available to all who can build even more innovative tools, like those built for DC CTO's Apps for Democracy contest. Sadly, Metro's culture is even less "open source" than it is open to communication.
I know that some of you didn't like receiving emails directly. I want to assure you that I considered this petition a last resort. After it became clear that the emails had made their point, I stopped them going to you individually. I hope we can address future issues without recourse to this messy method.
I like to praise Metro when you do a good job, like on the rush hour fares for Inauguration, and I've lobbied for your priority bus corridor plan. I hope that you will see last week's email barrage not as a nuisance but as an opportunity to hear the public's frustration and see the need for a new culture of openness and cooperation at Metro. I look forward to working with each of you to improve transit in our region.
Thank you, and I would be happy to answer any questions.
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