TriMet in Portland, Oregon, along with Google, was one of the first public agencies to try to tackle the problem of online transit trip planners through the use of open datasets that are shared with the general public (How Google and Portland’s TriMet Set the Standard for Open Transit Data in Streetsblog SF). TriMet worked with Google to format their transit data into an easily maintainable and consumable format that could be imported into Google Maps. This transit data format was originally known as the Google Transit Feed Specification (GTFS).
As a result of developer innovation, GTFS data is now being used by a variety of third-party software applications for many different purposes, including trip planning, timetable creation, mobile data, data visualization, accessibility, analysis tools for planning, and real time information systems. In 2010, the GTFS format name was changed to the General Transit Feed Specification to accurately represent its use in many different applications outside of Google products.
GTFS stands out among public transportation data formats because it was conceived to meet specific, practical needs in communicating service information to passengers rather than as an exhaustive vocabulary for managing operational details. It is designed to be relatively simple to create and read for both people and machines. Even organizations that work with highly-detailed data internally using standards like NeTEx find GTFS useful as a way to publish data for wider consumption in consumer applications.
For further background on the origins of GTFS, see Pioneering Open Data Standards: The GTFS Story.
MobilityData started as a Rocky Mountain Institute project in 2016. Ever since, we have been working on GTFS Best Practices and improving mobility data to build solid foundations for the transit data industry. We convene major stakeholders around small tables to speak about the technical & organizational challenges, and we resolve those challenges.
2018 marks a major turning point in our history as MobilityData received sponsorship of major players in the mobility data industry, allowing it to turn a Rocky Mountain Institute project into a stand-alone non-profit organization, MobilityData IO, based in Montréal, Canada.
During that year, MobilityData led the improvement and extension of the de facto worldwide standard for public transit data, the GTFS format, by fostering conversations around on-demand services and fares, and by extending the format to describe station pathways.
Today, MobilityData is also in charge of the GTFS equivalent in the sharing-system world, the GBFS format, as a subcontractor of NABSA. Through a partnership, MobilityData and TransitScreen have taken over OpenMobilityData (previously known as TransitFeeds) a worldwide repository of GTFS datasets.
GTFS best practices working group
Several organisations were involved in the development and improvement of GTFS. They contributed to the adoption of the Best Practices, and they are still involved in the discussions around GTFS through contributions that follow the amendment processes (for both static and real time specifications).