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The Many Uses of GTFS Data (APTA TransITech March 2013)
Transcript of The Many Uses of GTFS Data (APTA TransITech March 2013)
The Many Uses of GTFS Data
Opening the Door to Transit and Multimodal Applications
APTA TransITech March 2013, Phoenix Arizona
Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida
What is GTFS?
Trillium Solutions, Inc.
Engage with developers, transit customers
GTFS = General Transit Feed Specification
Created in 2005 by Google and TriMet
Now a de facto standard, it is is the most popularly-used data format to describe fixed-route transit services in the world
More than 200 transit agencies in the U.S. provide public GTFS data
CSV files describe geo-spatial, schedule, fare, and service calendar information.
Active, evolving standard
The full Spec is at
Survey available tools
Make data openly available on consistent terms, so developers can build applications, and more customers can use those applications.
(1) James Wong, Landon Reed, Kari Watkins, and Regan Hammond (2013), "Open Transit Data: State of the Practice and Experiences from Participating Agencies in the United States," in Transportation Research Board 92nd Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., USA, p. 15, January 13-17, 2013
None of the agencies in our study, or in another recent study,(1) reported any serious legal issues resulting from the release of GTFS data to the public.
A thoughtful license agreement and guidelines can protect the transit agency.
Trip planning and maps
Timetable & maps creation
Visualization / contexts
Planning / analysis
“The old limits of what unmanaged and unpaid groups can do are no longer in operation; the difficulties that kept self-assembled groups from working together are shrinking, meaning that the number and kinds of things groups can get done without financial motivation or managerial oversight are growing.”
— Clay Shirky,
Here Comes Everybody
The [TriMet] trip planner has been the most requested page on the TriMet website for the last six years. The number of visits to the trip planner has been growing every year and did not decline with the advent of Google Transit. We believe Google Transit is a valuable tool primarily for new riders and visitors who may not be familiar with the TriMet website.
E.D. of Communication Technology
The data is already out there. Developers can screen-scrape [the information off our website if we weren’t sharing our GTFS data] which isn’t ideal for the customers or the agencies.
IT Manager for GIS
plane, train, bus, and drive
bike, walk, transit, and drive
rideshare, vanpool, corporate shuttles / parkio.com
timetables, maps, and destination tables
open-source software to proof and create PDF and HTML timetables
schedules & maps
trip planner, arrival estimates, service quality
The Transit App
trip planner, arrival estimates
How far can you go using transit?
OpenTripPlanner Analyst Extension
detours, service alerts, exceptions, arrival estimates
Determine existing data and software resources
Installed scheduling software
Understand how service features are best described in GTFS
Maintain ongoing relationships
We’re small and we can’t provide every customized solution people ask for…. making the data available is something that we’re very familiar with so that developers can develop the tools themselves. It’s like having an army of developers available to us.
— Tim McHugh,
CTO of Portland's TriMet
Open data facilitates innovation
Over the long-term, open data reduces IT burdens on agencies, allows focus on core business
"Open Transportation Technology"
Transit Developers Group
Open GTFS data offers particular utility for multimodal "supernetworks"
air + intercity bus or rail
bike + transit
bikeshare + transit
rideshare + transit
carshare + transit
demand-response / fixed-route transit
transit / carshare / taxi
"The Many Uses of GTFS Data"
S. Barbeau, A. Antrim
compare and combine options:
dedicated email contact
hack-a-thons / meetups
The future of GTFS
Publish on agency site
Include in data exchange sites
What does the
agency brand mean?
How does this change agency website traffic?
Who is in control?
TriMet and BART include a provision in data license agreements that restricts use of the logo.
New York MTA allows "officially licensed" free apps to use its logo and maps.
GTFS, GIS, license, email list
GTFS, API, GTFS-realtime, GIS,
RSS, editable map
Mendocino Transit Authority
crowdsourced real-time & overcrowding information
Google Maps for mobile
trip planner, arrival estimates + other Google Maps features
Evolution and growth
GTFS producers and consumers (transit agencies and app developers) discuss potential changes
demonstrable, useful changes are adopted
some potential changes under discussion:
expansion of capabilities to describe fares: peak/off-peak, day of week, line-to-line transfers, etc.
capability to describe hail-and-ride, flex-routes, and other demand-response services
GTFS data for Oregon
35+ agencies, including intercity
Trafiklab (of Samtrafiken)
Forum for developers, transit providers
In the case with some other applications we get some customer feedback. However, this is almost always problems raising from errors in our data and not errors in the third party application.
We also receive very valuable and competent feedback from third parties when there are problems with our APIs (for example downtime or problems when launching new versions).
— Elias Arnestrand, Samtrafiken,