Want more riders? Open up your NextBus API with GTFS-realtime

Nathan Selikoff
4 min readDec 15, 2016

Real-time passenger information is essential — that’s why you invested in NextBus for your transit agency.

But can your riders access this real-time info on Google Maps, Transit App, Moovit and Citymapper? What about the thousands of potential riders that are already using these apps to get around? Your service is entirely missing.

Let’s fix this

Fortunately, there is an easy fix: make your NextBus feed public and activate the GTFS-realtime feature.

We have a step by step guide below, or you can contact us now to walk you through the process.

How to set up GTFS-realtime for a transit system on NextBus

There’s one important step before you start, and then it’s a two part process to fully set up GTFS-realtime.

Before you begin, confirm that your schedule is on Google Maps

Make sure your static route and schedule data is being shared with Google via a GTFS feed. If this is not the case, follow Google’s instructions to get started with Google Transit.

Part 1: Convert your NextBus feed to GTFS-realtime

  1. Confirm that your NextBus feed is properly configured with trip identifiers which match those in the GTFS feed, the tripTag element, and useful values for the block element
  2. Ask NextBus to make your feed public (see if it’s already public here). Note that there may be additional fees associated with this step.
  3. Ask NextBus to activate the GTFS-realtime feature. Again, there may be additional fees associated with this step.
  4. Get the URLs for the GTFS-realtime vehicle positions, service alerts, and trip updates feeds

Part 2: Share your GTFS-realtime feeds

  1. Google Maps: Fill out Google’s Transit Live Updates form to establish a relationship and start testing the feeds (you will need the feed ID assigned by Google for your GTFS schedule).
  2. Transit App: Contact Transit App’s Partnerships team to establish a relationship and get a beta version of Transit App to test with the feeds
  3. Moovit: Contact Moovit’s Partnerships team to establish a relationship and get a beta version of Moovit to test with the feeds
  4. Citymapper: Vote for your city to be included in Citymapper
  5. Transitland: Add the static GTFS feed to Transitland
  6. Transitfeeds: Add the GTFS and GTFS-realtime feeds to Transitfeeds

Still not sure? Check out our FAQs below:

Q: What are the benefits of GTFS-realtime?

Access Untapped Ridership: potential riders already using Google Maps and other apps will see your service as an option for getting around.

Increase Customer Satisfaction: existing riders want and need more choices on how they access real-time info.

Enable Regional Integration: your service will more easily integrate with other regional transportation options, working towards a true multi-modal, connected system.

Improve Developer Relations: developers working on solutions for all transit agencies will have access to your real-time data via a robust, standards-compliant, open data API.

Q: But we already have real-time info. Why do we need GTFS-realtime?

You might be thinking, “people can already see where their bus is, and when it will arrive — they just need to go to NextBus.com or download the app. There’s even a NextBus API for developers.”

This is a great start. But the NextBus API alone falls short of the industry standard. In the past few years, GTFS-realtime has become the de-facto open standard, widely adopted by Google and app developers. It is the natural outgrowth of the static GTFS format which Google and TriMet in Portland pioneered a decade ago. It is the technology that underlies Google Maps’ Live Transit Updates, and many of today’s most popular transit apps.

Q: Help! This is complicated. Can you do this for me?

Contact us and we will gladly walk you through these steps. At Omni we are working to make transportation easy for everyone.

Q: Are there other options?

OneBusAway is an open source platform for real-time transit information that includes a GTFS-realtime adapter for NextBus’ API. In fact, this open source converter existed before NextBus offered GTFS-realtime as a feature of its platform.

Q: We’re not on NextBus. Do we need GTFS-realtime?

If you’re on another proprietary real-time API, get in touch and let’s talk about your options for enabling GTFS-realtime.

Q: Who else thinks GTFS-realtime is important?

Kurt Raschke has been blogging about the limitations of the NextBus API and the importance of open standards like GTFS-realtime for many years. Also, Dr. Sean Barbeau at USF’s Center for Urban Transportation Research has also been an important advocate for GTFS-realtime. We recommend his presentations Open Transit Data — A Developer’s Perspective and The Many Uses of GTFS Data. Many transit agencies are already sharing trip updates, service alerts, and vehicle location data via GTFS-realtime; you can browse their feeds on Transitfeeds.com.

Q: I have another question…

We would love to try and help. Please contact us.



Nathan Selikoff

Co-founder of @omnimodal. Artist and developer in love with maps, public transportation, and interactivity.