The National Academies

Transit IDEA J-04/IDEA 93 [Active (IDEA)]

An Open Platform for Transit Agencies to Improve the Quality of Their Real-time Data

  Project Data
Funds: $98,705
Staff Responsibility: Velvet Fitzpatrick
Research Agency: Interline Technologies, LLC
Principal Investigator: Drew Dara-Abrams
Effective Date: 1/10/2019
Fiscal Year: 2018

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 the last few 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 clear 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, a private-sector software firm and a university transportation lab will create a prototype platform that makes GTFS Realtime validation tools readily available to, potentially, all transit agencies in North America. We will build upon two open-source projects: the GTFS Realtime validator prototype and Transitland, an open transit data platform. This project will apply the open-source and open-data community models to the challenges of creating and improving GTFS Realtime data.
By combining the open-source components of a GTFS Realtime validator with a catalog of GTFS Realtime feeds, hosted on Transitland’s cloud servers, this project will make the process of validating real-time data simple and accessible to agency staff from any computer with a web browser. As a result, GTFS Realtime data will improve in quality and availability. Transit riders will have a better experience (which has been linked to higher ridership), agency staff will provide better service with less effort and cost, and system vendors will provide higher quality product.

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