Developer Tries to Open Transit Data

When Google added transit directions to its Maps, it also created a format that allows any transit agency to be included. To date, over 400 have made their routes, schedules and fares available for the search giant using the GTFS feed format. As we lamented previously, very few of those feeds are available publicly. One developer decided to try and fix that and help transit agencies at the same time.

Jehiah CzebotarJehiah Czebotar, with feedback from the GTFS community, created GTFS Data Exchange. The site encourages agencies to open up and makes it easier for developers to get access to the data. Czebotar, who by day works for URL shortener (our API profile), sees it foremost as a developer tool. Advocating for open data is a side effect of the main purpose. "Its only tool for advocacy is highlighting which agencies do have data, in order to put pressure on others," Czebotar said in an email.

He also recently helped launch City-Go-Round, a gallery of transit apps that also maintains an accounting of which agencies have publicly available GTFS feeds. According to that site, 91 of 751 agencies it lists publish a GTFS feed.

Large transit agencies without open data

Czebotar points out that the number of open agencies has increased dramatically in the last year. In that sense, the direction open transit data is moving is more important than where it is.

Still, are there any good reasons for an agency not to open up? "One big thing that is keeping agencies from releasing data is the idea that they need to ensure and guarantee the correctness of every application that uses their data, in order to make sure riders don't receive bad/outdated info," Czebotar said. It's easy to imagine, then, why agencies trust Google and not your average developer.

GTFS Data Exchange helps with this concern by providing an easy way for developers to be notified when there are changes to a feed. There's nothing forcing developers to pick up the latest feed, other than a desire to keep their applications current.

Another way to help avoid bad data would be a single API to interface with the publicly-available transit data. But Czeboatar says it won't be him who creates it. "The best I can do is make the data available to enable something like that to be possible."

Well, considering the state of open transit data, that's pretty good.

For more on this topic from Programmable Web, check out our list of 8 transit APIs, 93 transit mashups and our look deeper into Google's Transit Feed Specification.

Hat tip: O'Reilly Radar

Be sure to read the next Transportation article: Voting Begins for New York City's BigApps 2.0


Comments (8)

[...] a big step forward for one of the world’s most notable cities. And hopefully a sign of open transit data on the way. London is remarkably still not included in the Google Maps website transit directions. [...]

[...] its GTFS data available this year. This was not the case when we wrote about Jehiah Czebotar, an NYC-based developer trying to open transit data. Czebotar points to several positive steps the MTA took recently, including sharing schedule and [...]

[...] other realtime transit examples. We have also covered public transportation before: we interviewed one developer trying to get data from agencies and profiled 4 Hip Transit Authorities with [...]

[...] we profiled the developer who is trying to open transit data earlier this year, City-Go-Round showed 91 agencies with public data. The number has crept to 114 [...]

[...] 市交通局は、以前からこんなにオープンなわけではなかった。大きく舵を切ったのは、昨年一年のことだ。2010年1月[訳注1]には、MTAはオープンにデータ提供をしていない最大の交通局だった。だが程なくMTAは部分的ながらもデータを出すようになり、4月にはアンカンファレンス形式[訳注2]のカンファレンスをGoogleと共催するまでになった。 [...]

[...] been so open, but it made a big turn-around over the last year. In January, 2010, MTA was the largest transit agency without open data. Shortly afterward, MTA released some data and in April it co-hosted an un-conference with [...]

[...] have heavily covered open transit data in the past, including an interview with Jehiah Czebotar, a developer evangelizing open transit. Czebotar’s aim is to get transit agencies to support the GTFS standard, the same one [...]

[...] This follows Apple removing public transit directions from its upcoming iPhone maps app, a puzzling move given that its based on public GTFS data. [...]