UPDATE 2012-02-20: OC Transpo is now required by Transit Commission to release GPS open data by March 22, 2012 ENDUPDATE
Ottawa Transit Commission just had its January 18, 2012 meeting and the OC Transpo representatives, including General Manager of Transit Services, Alain Mercier got a lot of questions when they came out with the assertion that Commission had to choose between completely in-house ad-supported applications from OC Transpo, and open data.
This is an absolutely classic bureaucratic organisation power play. It's about control, not technology. OC Transpo went as far as to assert that only they could "understand" the complexities of transit enough to produce "reliable" apps. In other words, "this is a hard problem, so no one outside our organisation should bother us with trying to solve it". This not only goes against the worldwide trend of opening up information and development in the understanding that "many eyes" are better, as well as the already demonstrated success of open data approaches in much larger jurisdictions, notably New York, Chicago and Boston.
OC Transpo is apparently saying "sure giant cities with millions of daily travelers on multiple modes of transit can trust developers with their open data, but our little bus-based system is way more difficult than that".
They are also making this strange argument that they "support" open data (as they have already publicly stated) but they don't "support" it so much that they actually want to do it, they'd rather have an exclusive ad contract. A situation which, I might ad, puts the entire burden of internal IT, maintenance, and keeping up with ever-changing web and mobile trends on OC Transpo. Do we really think being a software developer should be a core competency of our transit agency?
I've tried as best I could to capture and sort the discussion on Twitter. Ottawa's media are skilled users of Twitter, I was fortunate to have so much to work with... but there was so much from so many fronts that I'm sure it is both confusing and missing tweets.