At the TRB Annual Meeting, I had the opportunity to publicize a project that I’m leading: TCRP J-11 (31) Guidance for Trading, Sharing, and Selling Public Transit Data – Now and in the Future. I have been talking to transit agencies and experts about data sharing and getting value out of the data transit agencies collect. We have discussed challenges, including data quality, standardization, and privacy.
Many agencies share General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data openly and appreciate the value that private app developers add to this value by producing trip planning apps that transit customers benefit from. Other agencies provide data to researchers whose analysis guides transit agency decisions.
While many transit agencies see benefits, there are concerns as well. What information is presented by external data users? Is it accurate and in the transit agency’s interest? How can transit agencies best leverage the power of the data they collect?
Some of the presentations I saw at TRB were trying to answer these questions. Drew Dara-Abrams spoke about his work at Transitland on GTFS data quality validation and the licenses under which the data is shared. John Levin of Metro Transit updated the Joint Subcommittee on Transformative Trends in Transit Data on the Transit ITS Data Exchange Specification (TIDES). The TIDES initiative proposes a standard approach to managing transit ITS data. Standardized data would allow for standardized tools and analysis processes that could help transit agencies extract more value from their data. Chris Pangilinan presented the recent Transit Center report, “The Data Transit Riders Want”, highlighting the importance of data quality and timeliness.