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Metro “Loses” Trains, On Purpose, In Data Released to App Developers Here; Unheard-of Elsewhere

dcogcadmin | February 16, 2016

UPDATE 7/21/16: Metro announced July 17 a new data feed it says should correct the problems noted earlier in the post below. Faiz Saddiqui reported the developments in the Post, with welcoming comments from developers who had previously blasted the limitations of Metro data releases on “security” grounds not invoked in other transit system. The change followed public questions at a February D.C. Council hearing to the Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld from Council Member and Metro board chair Jack Evans.


Developers of a real-time map of Metrorail trains find the data released by the regional transit agency “faulty, unreliable and riddled with holes” – according to new reporting this weekend (14) by the Washington Post writer Faiz Siddiqui.

The app, dubbed “MetroHero,” is available for Android and Apple devices.

Metro makes its data on individual trains available to developers, but, according to the paper, users here have found some trains “disappear” from the data, affecting the rest of the data on trains’ wait times.

Metro acknowledges limits on release of data “for security reasons” but the reporter found, for example, New York Transit, AMTRAK and MARC all give out data on individual trains without the limits imposed here. A New York Metropolitan Transit Authority spokesman said officials there “reconciled” their related security concerns and regularly release full train information. It’s used by developers of almost 100 schedule apps, all featured on NY transit web sites (Metro declines to do so).  

Metro even declined to answer the reporter’s questions seeking further explanation of the “security concerns.”

The developers enlisted the Metro Riders Advisory Council, and some members have encouraged Metro to be more responsive as a way to regain some lost ground in public goodwill.

Discussions are said to be continuing and Chris Barnes, curator of the Twitter account @FixWMATA and an Advisory Council member, said he hoped Metro would adapt to the 21st-century demands of a transit system. Plus, he told the reporter, “this is one of those things that can actually be fixed.”

Now that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has just set forth an ambitious agenda of government openness (including data), proclaiming on January 12, 2016, that D.C. is “a mecca for social innovation and technology” and her goal is to “make the District one of the most open jurisdictions in the country,” she may want to ask the D.C. representative to the WMATA board, Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans, to see what he can do to resolve the matter.