New York City's public transit system took a big step toward the future today, going 180 degrees on its old policy of keeping transit data behind locked doors. As of today, info about NYC's ridership stats and arrival times will be available to anyone who wants to use the data to make software apps for transit riders.

NYC riders should thank Portland for their future subway iPhone apps, since the new open source model is one TriMet pioneered all the way back in 2005. I wrote about how TriMet became the first major public transit agency in the world to work with Google and open up its data to everyday app developers in an article last summer:

  • Andy Rementer
For four years, Portland's public transit agency has quietly led the world in one small area: making public transit information sleek and accessible online. It is a nerdy pursuit, but not a niche one. Los Angeles, Austin, Japan, and Seattle have all used TriMet's technology to get their own public transit schedules onto iPhones and the internet.

How did Portland become a transit technology pioneer without spending a dime? Firstly, the city is committed to open source data sharing. And it employs a computer science power couple capable of teaching Google a thing or two.

Portland > New York.