What is GTFS?

GTFS makes transit schedules appear on websites and mobile apps.

GoogleMapsIphoneThe original specification for GTFS was developed by TriMet and Google as the “Google Transit Feed Specification” and was released in late 2005. Since then, GTFS data has been created for hundreds of transit agencies in the US, and well over a thousand around the world. To represent the move from a proprietary form to an open data standard, the name has since been changed to the General Transit Feed Specification.

GTFS defines the manner in which geospatial, temporal, and cost data for transit agencies is to be expressed on the internet. Because the standard was developed not only by programmers, but also by transit specialists, the specification is remarkably easy for transit agencies to understand and adapt to.

GTFS is open and flexible. It is a continuously developing standard. If a feature of your agency can’t be represented well, GTFS will eventually change to work better for you and your riders. Trillium’s sway in the network of developers that make decisions regarding GTFS can help make that evolution faster.

Riders want GTFS

Over 80% of US adults have used the internet to get maps or directions. On any given day in 2011, about 1 in 6 got directions online. Unlike some uses of the internet, maps and directions are sought by all users across all demographics. While more common among younger users, more than 75% of users 65 and up have sought directions online. As of 2013, 49% of US cell phone users (or 45% of all adults) get maps and directions from their phones, up from just 28% in 2011. Urban users are more likely to find how to get somewhere on their phone, but rural use is as high as 40%.

Want more details? Check out Pew Research and The Census.

Your riders already use the web to get where they’re going. With GTFS data, they’ll see your agency as an option.

Nearly all online apps use GTFS

maps-appsEverything that displays “static” transit data on the web that we’re aware of uses GTFS. GTFS is not the only data format for fixed-route transit information, but it is by far the most widely used, for the reason that it is comparatively simple and has an actively engaged community of developers that welcome input and help new agencies and developers get involved and get GTFS to work for them. To the right is just a small sampling of the many applications that use GTFS data.

GTFS isn’t only for consumer facing trip planning applications, however. It is also well suited for analysis and reporting of transit system information. Some state DOTs like Oregon, Vermont, and Massachusetts have created statewide data sets and use them for taking a wide-angle lens to their state transit networks. TransitLabs is working to streamline NTD reporting through the use of GTFS. Free open-source tools exist to help agencies benchmark their transit systems against others from across the world, like the Open Transit Indicators project from the WorldBank. GTFS does more than just please riders: it’s a truly powerful internal tool for agencies.

GTFS resources

Want to learn more about GTFS?

  • Here’s the full data specification.
  • Here’s Trillium’s GTFS Knowledge Base, including explanations, discussions, and tips on creating quality GTFS data.
  • Here’s a paper on Leveraging your GTFS Data by our President & Lead Developer, Aaron Antrim, and Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) Principal Mobile Software Architect, Sean Barbeau.

We’ll make your data

Trillium has made or helped managed GTFS data for over 150 transit agencies in the US, and others in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. If you’d like to put your agency on the map, we can help. Our proven process will get your agency in Google Maps faster than any other firm can, and the final data will be beyond the necessary technical specifications.

Contact us today for a customized bid and timeline.

Already have GTFS data, but want a better way to manage it? Check out Trillium’s GTFS Manager.