Transparent Transport

There’s a peculiar clause highlighted on page 22, section 4.02 of the MTA All-Agency Code of Ethics.

“Employees shall not engage in a course of conduct that will raise suspicion among the public that they are in violation of the public trust.”

The code doesn’t specify what types of conduct are encouraged or discouraged under this bylaw (wearing MTA outfits while riding yachts is a no no, but feel free to wear that gold leisure suit on weekends) but it does highlight the proximity of the MTA to the public they serve.

The Hudson Yards subway station, week 1 — Photo by Max Resnik

It’s easy to poke fun at the MTA. Wildly incorrect stop announcements, missing busses and stinky trains with broken air conditioners are all in a day’s journey. But there’s something beautiful about a city of people tied together by common means of conveyance. I wouldn’t get so frustrated when my subway is late if I didn’t believe so strongly in public transportation.

I love that a single monthly pass can bring me to all five boroughs. I love that I can leave my apartment and never need to get in a car throughout the day. Public transportation serves me well.

Full disclosure I’m able bodied and recognize that my experience is by no means shared by New Yorkers with disabilities.

I feel the same way about news. It serves some of my needs very well and enrages me when it doesn’t live up to my expectations. Transparency and accountability play equally important roles in transportation and journalism.

On the MTA website an entire tab is dedicated to transparency. You can find out their performance indicators, investor information, locations and times for public hearings and the code of ethics.

The first repairs to the escalator at the Hudson Yards station — Photo by Max Resnik

In some ways, I trust the reliable unreliability of the MTA more than I do the cacophony of news organizations vying for my attention. danah boyd argues that my generation has been taught to trust experience over expertise. As often as I see damaged subway platforms or equipment I also see people fixing broken gear and installing new equipment. It takes time and isn’t always beautiful but the systems improve.

The promise of a digital future — Photo by Max Resnik

I experience the failures of public transportation (I’m late, sweaty or stuck underground) much more tangibly than I do the failures of journalism. I wonder if there could be ways for news orgs to be as visible as transportation repairpeople. How do you make someone feel an absence of something that they don’t know is missing (information/community/etc.)