Visualizing Better Transportation: Data & Tools

The following is a collection of transportation-related data and tools for the San Francisco Bay Area and other cities in North America. These tools were originally collected and discussed at a 2018 Transit Week Event at ARUP in San Francisco.

How might we use data to create seamless travel experiences and connect San Franciscans between public transit and emerging mobility services? Starting at the Visualizing Better Transportation with Data event on Sept 26th, San Francisco Transit Riders (SFTR) will be partner with stakeholders in government agencies and companies in transportation to ask questions and explore how data can give riders a strong voice and better choice in their public transit and mobility services that work with transit. I’m the Vice Chair of SFTR and I’m organizing this event, so reach out to me or with questions and ideas.

Getting Started

There is a wide array of data, products, resources, and tools available and in the spirit of “emergence” and getting data out of silos, this blog post list a bunch of them. The tools, techniques, resources also make it possible to combine data in insightful ways.


When you start working with data around transportation and geospatial analysis, you’ll enter a world full of technical terms and acronyms. It can be daunting at first, but you can learn step by step and there are countless resources to help you along the way.

Before you jump into data, here are a few essential resources and tools to take you from the basics (no coding required) to pro techniques:

Transit Tools

There a number of data tools you can use to analyze and visualize transportation and geospatial data without needing to code.

Mobility Explorer from TransitLand.

Transportation & Mobility Data

Now that we’ve looked at some essential tools for mapping and analyzing data, let’s look at interesting data to visualize.

The following organizations are doing exciting work in transportation and mobility. They will be showcase data and tools at our event on Sept. 26th:

Data Visualization from CTA Emerging Mobility, Strava, and Swiftly.

And here are a number of other datasets from other companies and organizations:

  • 311 Dashboard — Explore 311 complaints and service request in San Francisco.
  • Portal — Developer portal and open data for 511 Bay Area including data for AC Transit, BART, Caltrain,, SFMTA, SamTrans, and other transit operators.
311 Data Explorer & 511 Trip Planner and Developer Resources
Visualization by JUMP Bikes; Ford GoBike trips visualized by Steve Pepple using Carto.
  • NextBus — Provides real-time location data for a number of transportation agencies. Here is documentation on their developer API.
  • — It is a data standard and a platform that serves as a launching pad for public-private collaboration and a clearinghouse for data exchange.
  • San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) — Provides an interactive project map. The agency also has an open data initiative in the works to aggregate data from emerging mobility services providers.
  • TNCs Today — Provides a data snapshot of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), such as Lyft and Uber, operating in San Francisco.
  • Transitland — An aggregation of transit networks maintained by transit enthusiasts and developers.
  • Vital Signs Data Center — Explore a wide variety of public datasets related to transportation, land use, the economy, the environment, and social equity.
Example of Resident Travel by Transportation from MTC Vital Signs; TNCs today from SFCTA

Tools & Code

Once you have the data you to want to explore and analyze, try these useful tools and libraries for analyzing and visualizing transportation and spatial data.

  • D3.js — D3.js Check out all the examples in Mike Bostock’s website. For example, here is how to create a real-time transit map of San Francisco.
  • — Open source data visualization tools from Uber. Especially good for visualization of large datasets in WebGL maps.
  • Esri Transit Tools — Tools for ESRI and ArcGIS users working with transit and network data.
  • — Open Source geocoder (based on Mapzen’s Pelias) that allows users to look up geographic coordinates of addresses and vice versa. Mapbox, CARTO, and Esri also have search APIs for geocoding addresses.
  • Leaflet.js — the best frontend library for working with the display of points, symbols, and all types of features on the web and mobile devices. The library supports rectangles, circles, polygons, points, custom markers, and a wide variety of layers. It performs quickly, handles a variety of formats, and makes styling of map features easy.
  • Opensource Routing Machine — OSRM is a project for routing paths between origin and destination in road networks. Mapbox also has a turn-by-turn Directions API and Nokia Here has a service that supports transit.
  • Open source Planning Tools — An extension of GFTS for for transportation planning and network analysis.
  • Replica — A city planning tool from Sidewalk labs for exploring and analyzing where people move. Here’s Nick Bowden’s post about how the tool used de-identified or anonymous mobility and foot traffic data to model how people travel in urban areas.
  • Turf.js — Mapbox library for geospatial analysis in the browser. Turf’s create collection of geographic features and then quickly spatially analyze, process, and simplify the data before visualizing it.
  • UrbanSim — An open source simulation platform for supporting planning and analysis of urban development, incorporating the interactions between land use, transportation, the economy, and the environment. You can check out a simulation of the Bay Area on MTC portal.

Thanks for reading and let Transit Riders know if you have additional tools or datasets we can share. We are also looking for ideas for future events and projects. Contact us at