Real-time transit information has many benefits to transit riders and agencies, including shorter perceived and actual wait times, a more welcoming experience for new riders, and an increased feeling of safety, and increased ridership. Real-time transit data is, in comparison with many other potential operational or capital improvements to bus or rail service, an affordable means of increasing ridership. In recent years, a real-time complement to the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) format, GTFS Realtime, has emerged.
Despite its promise, adoption of GTFS Realtime by transit agencies has been hampered by a lack of explanatory documentation and readily available validation tools. Hardware and software vendors for automatic vehicle location (AVL) systems also vary in the depth and quality of their support for the GTFS Realtime specification. As a result, transit agencies must invest significant time and effort to create and maintain high quality GTFS Realtime feeds. Furthermore, bad data has been shown to have a negative effect on ridership, the rider’s opinion of the agency, and the rider’s satisfaction with multimodal trip-planning apps. Thus, transit agencies must put even more effort toward ensuring that the GTFS Realtime data produced by their systems is of sufficient quality.
In this project, Interline Technologies LLC and the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida (USF), created a prototype platform that makes GTFS Realtime validation tools readily available to, potentially, all transit agencies in North America. We built upon two open-source projects: the GTFS Realtime validator prototype and Transitland, an open transit data platform. This project applies the open-source and open-data community models to the challenges of creating and improving GTFS Realtime data. The research team tested the platform with eight US-based public transit agencies of varying sizes and in-house IT capabilities, confirming its usefulness and identifying specific improvements that can be made to prepare the platform for self-serve use by more agencies. The research team concluded the report by describing plans to expand Transitland’s catalog of GTFS Realtime feeds (using the Distributed Mobility Feed Registry format) and to develop a GTFS Realtime certification process.
See https://www.interline.io and https://transit.land for more information.
The final report is available.