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Interoperable Transit Data


Today’s transportation system is characterized largely by privately-owned, individually-driven, gas-powered vehicles that sit unused 95 percent of the time, cost over $1 trillion annually, and emit 1 gigaton of emissions each year. Present trends, emerging technologies, and new tech-enabled transit businesses suggest that the current system will change dramatically. A more cost-effective, efficient, equitable, and convenient system is possible—one that delivers a variety of shared, electrified, and autonomous mobility options when and where they are needed. We call this “mobility as a service.”


Public transit agencies, private transit providers, and travelers create and use enormous stockpiles of precise transit data. However, this data is currently largely siloed. The momentum of software and mobile business is quickly making this data more interconnected and available. 

Greater sophistication and interoperability of multimodal transit data can create increased ridership for transit agencies, greater lead generation for private transit providers, and better planning tools for city government. Improvements in multimodal transit data can also enable greater collaboration between the public and private sectors, supporting the transition to shared ownership of expensive assets.


In October 2016, RMI and Trillium convened a diverse set of 16 public and private stakeholders focused on improving the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) -- the dominant data standard in which public transit agencies publish their data. In February 2017 this multi-stakeholder working group published a set of best practices at gtfs.org. In order to maintain the GTFS standard and identify and address best practices for other data specifications in the future, the working group is transitioning into an industry consortium with a formal membership structure. Please contact us at gtfs@rmi.org to learn more about membership in the ITD Consortium.


For more information and background about interoperable transit data, we have authored two reports: 

  • Interoperable Transit Data: Enabling a Shift to Mobility as a Service. A report published in October 2015 outlining an overall vision for mobility as a service along with tangible next steps for enabling it, mainly by improving public and private transit data interoperability. The report was published based on results from a two-day Interoperable Transit Data workshop convened by RMI in San Francisco that was attended by 40 leading public and private mobility stakeholders. Read the report here.

  • A Consortium Approach to Transit Data Interoperability: Released in December 2016, this report describes current industry barriers and opportunities to data interoperability, establishes a set of minimum data requirements for transportation service providers (TSPs), and proposes a set of both immediate and long-term next steps for the industry to achieve greater data interoperability. RMI argues that a consortium model for addressing challenges affecting the entire industry--such as data standardization and technology and design barriers--would be an efficient and effective means of driving innovation through persistent communication and actionable collaboration. Read the report here.


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