Open Data Opens New Possibilities for Blue Book

We are excited to announce our new Open Data Portal!

Screenshot of the MBTA Open Data Portal

The MBTA has published the MBTA Ridership and Service Statistics, also known as “The Blue Book” since 1988. According to the Blue Book from 2005,

“The MBTA receives frequent inquiries from customers, students, peer transit providers, government agencies, community organizations, transportation enthusiasts, and the media for information regarding its operations, and this book is intended to address these needs. Additionally, this book serves as a management and analytical tool for MBTA staff.”

The most recent Blue Book edition was released in 2014 and contained data on ridership, bus speeds, track distances, fleet rosters, and more. However, the Blue Book has largely lacked consistency in updates. Moreover, because of the Blue Book’s print format, published data has only existed in an aggregated, non-interactive form, and has failed to include extensive historical data.

As demand for more up to date data increases, and to address the shortcomings of previous Blue Books, the offices of Performance Management & Innovation and Transportation Planning have worked to create an online open data portal. The portal, which went public on Monday, October 7, is designed to be easily navigable and searchable by mode type and data category. Many of the datasets on the portal had previously been available on other platforms, such as our performance API, though users will now have the ability to download customized datasets using an in-program filtering option . Metrics on reliability and performance are available as well as historical data about the MBTA’s financials, assets, and system information. New data will be added in the future.

Though we will no longer be publishing new Blue Book versions, the MBTA Open Data Portal provides the same service. The portal allows users to download data directly from the site and view reported figures within applications and maps on the portal. Datasets that are GTFS-compatible are marked so and can be downloaded for outside visual development. Data exists on the portal in its non-aggregated form to increase options for the user, but can be aggregated by the user upon download to mimic the reporting of the previous Blue Book editions.

How To Use

View all datasets with mode (rapid transit, bus, etc.) or category (ridership, performance, etc.) tags by clicking on the icons under the mode and category headers. Alternately, you can explore all public MBTA datasets by searching for keywords in the dataset title, summary, tags, or description using the search bar at the top of the page. Clicking inside the search bar and pressing enter without entering text will populate all public datasets within the portal. Under the “Overview” tab of a dataset, you can view the description, data dictionary, data limitations, attributes, related data, and metadata. The download and API buttons on the right side of the page allow for download format selection. Under the “Data” tab, you can sort and filter the records by any of the attributes and then download only those filtered records. The “API Explorer” tab shows the query functionality and query URL for the particular dataset.