GTFS Best Practices now available!

The General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) has revolutionized multi-modal information and open transit data. Started as a simple way to represent fixed route transit systems by TriMet in Portland, Oregon and Google in 2005, GTFS data is now shared publicly by over 2,275 transit agencies worldwide, according to Transitland.

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A GTFS dataset — the contents of the zip file and the text data in the stops.txt file

However, as is often the case with innovation, as more and more agencies started producing GTFS data, and more apps started consuming it, it became apparent that different agencies/app developers were interpreting, formatting, and managing data in different ways. This fragmentation makes it difficult to create and maintain an app that uses data from a large number of agencies.

Below are just a few of the common challenges that transit app developers have encountered.

Feed management

Data content

A solution — GTFS Best Practices

Recently, members of the GTFS community got together and discussed these and other challenges as part of an effort organized by the Rocky Mountain Institute. The output of this working group was a set of GTFS Best Practices that helps address some of the major challenges in data fragmentation (including the above-mentioned items) and provides guidance to transit agencies, vendors/consultants helping to produce and consume GTFS data, as well as app developers that make the information available in their applications.

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The new GTFS Best Practices, available at http://gtfs.org/best-practices/.

I hope that these GTFS Best Practices will make it easier for agencies to understand what developers need to produce great apps and in turn produce better data. And, I hope it provides developers better guidance as to what they should expect from GTFS data feeds across a large number of agencies. Better GTFS data will also lay a solid foundation for real-time data, which will in turn increase the quality of GTFS-realtime feeds. On this note, please be sure to check out the below article on the new GTFS-realtime v2.0, which will also help agencies improve the quality of their data!

What’s next?

If you’re interested in more information on GTFS and GTFS-realtime, you might want to check out the following:

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) that supported our work at the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida with the GTFS community as part of a project that is developing a GTFS-realtime validation tool, and to the Rocky Mountain Institute for supporting and facilitating the coordination with members of the GTFS community.

Written by

Improving the world, one byte at a time. @sjbarbeau, https://github.com/barbeau, https://www.linkedin.com/in/seanbarbeau/. I work @CUTRUSF. Posts are my own.

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