Google Transit Feeds and Mass Transit Mashups

Andres Ferrate, July 21st, 2008

Google Transit FeedMass transit in metropolitan regions is becoming an increasingly popular mode of transportation for commuters faced with ever-increasing oil prices. As a result, there is an emerging need for mass transit agencies to make information more accessible to a growing number of commuters. What role can APIs play?

Google’s Transit Feed Specification

Although widespread mass transit APIs may not be readily available, Google’s Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) holds some promise for agencies seeking to integrate their data with Google’s Transit Planner as well as the public and would-be transit mashup developers.

GTFS Code

The rationale behind the GTFS is that it enables agencies to provide public transportation schedules to Google for incorporation into Google Maps and other Google applications. The GTFS provides an opportunity for transit agencies to share route data that can be distributed easily to a wide consumer base via Google’s applications, while at the same time allowing that data to be shared with the public in a standardized format. The end result: transit agencies can better serve their customers through improved and expanded information sharing.

Mass Transit Agencies

Based on an effort initially led by Portland, Oregon’s TriMet, data in GTFS format from several transit agencies has been successfully incorporated into Google’s Transit Planner, including BART in the Bay Area, TBC in Bordeaux, France, and Transperth in Perth, Australia.

Google Transit

You can browse the list of agencies that are participating in Google Transit to get an idea of which agencies currently publish their data using the GTFS. The list has been growing incrementally since Google Transit’s initial debut in 2006, and effort’s such as this year’s “Google Transit’s Earth Day Challenge” have helped to garner increasing participation from transit agencies.

There is also a list that shows which agencies have publicly accessible data feeds. We hope to see this list grow in the near future.

Developers

There are several efforts underway to leverage transit for use in application and mashups. Open source projects, such as the GoogleTransitDataFeed project and the Transit TimeTable Publishing Application, seek to provide a common set of tools for agencies to distribute data in GTFS format. And creative developers have tapped into transit data to create valuable tools and mashups.

Transit mashups are primarily map based, including such sites as the Montreal Transit Planner, Chicago Transit CTA and Metra Rail, and Transit Maps, a slick map mashup that allows users to interactively view transit routes on Google Maps.

Matt King has developed Trimet Tracker, an iPhone application that allows users to search for transit arrival times and transit routes (it uses an API provided by TriMet). Other applications, such as TrainCheck provide train arrival times via SMS or email to user’s mobile devices (currently only available for San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Caltrain).

iPhone Trimet

As transit agencies move forward with increased data sharing efforts, particularly with GTFS, we hope to see a proliferation of transit mashups and applications (home-grown, open source, or commercial) that assist metropolitan commuters.

The Public

Ultimately the public is the key beneficiary of mass transit data integration via the GTFS format. In addition to utilizing Google Transit, commuters have gained access to various types of applications that deliver transit routes and schedules in innovative ways. We hope to see additional transit agencies joining in this data sharing effort, and we look forward to seeing how innovative developers will integrate publicly shared transit data.

For more, check out over 80 transit mashups in our mashup directory. We also have several travel APIs listed in our API directory, including the HopStop API, which provides subway and bus directions for New York City.

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6 Responses to “Google Transit Feeds and Mass Transit Mashups”

July 21st, 2008
at 10:33 am
Comment by: links for 2008-07-21 « Brent Sordyl’s Blog

[...] Google Transit Feeds and Mass Transit Mashups Google’s Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) holds some promise for agencies seeking to integrate their data with Google’s Transit Planner as well as the public and would-be transit mashup developers. (tags: google api transit) [...]

November 13th, 2008
at 3:38 am
Comment by: Urban Mapping Releases Mass Transit Proximity API

[...] This is the second mapping API released by Urban Mapping, adding a complementary data service to the Neighborhood Mapping API that we covered at the beginning of the year. Despite the lack of free access for the Mass Transit Proximity API (the Neighborhood Mapping API offers “freemium” access), this API is a nice addition to the mass transit resources available for developers. As some of you may remember, one of our previous posts covered Google’s Mass Transit Feeds and Mass Transit Mashups. [...]

December 8th, 2008
at 7:48 am
Comment by: Flüge

In my opinion Google Maps Transit is a really great development. It offers agencies the opportunity to be aware of their customers; of the commuters. The commuters get the possibility to get to know time schedules and to plan their “trip”. Google Maps Transit a an awesome enrichment and supports the public transportation online.

April 27th, 2010
at 2:56 pm
Comment by: Google To Host First Ever Transit Developer Unconference in NYC

[...] Portland’s Trimet (our Trimet API profile) has benefitted from supporting developers, with many trip planning apps available on various platforms. Google developed the GTFS format now used by over 400 agencies in partnership with Trimet, as we covered in 2008. [...]

May 13th, 2011
at 9:32 am
Comment by: MapQuest Adds Transit to Directions APIs

[...] which originally stood for Google Transit Feed Specification when we covered it in 2008 (the G now stands for General), was created by Google in coordination [...]

November 27th, 2012
at 4:08 am
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