national transit map

DOT to build National Transit Map from local open data

To get a better view of transportation issues across the country, the Department of Transportation wants to build a National Transit Map from open transit data collected from local and state transit agencies. Such a map could help DOT pinpoint areas that experience gaps in public transportation.

In a letter to transit agencies, Transportation Secretary Anthony R. Foxx asked them to share the link to their General Transit Feed Specification formatted data or other machine-readable data. DOT would take a periodic snapshot from the local agencies’ feeds so their routing and schedules can be incorporated into the national map. Data collection would occur no more than once a month.

“With this information in hand, DOT, planning agencies and researchers can do a far better job of demonstrating the importance and role of transit in American society and identify and address gaps in access to public transportation,” Foxx wrote in the letter.

On March 31, the first National Transit Map Collection Day, DOT will crawl all registered open data sets and begin processing them. The national map will show the stops, routes and schedules for all transit agencies. Right now, about half of U.S. transit agencies, including almost all major cities, already collect transportation data and either share it through their web sites or provide it directly to private companies.

Governments that share transit data should reap benefits as well. A report from the Transit Cooperative Research Program found that 66 percent of responding agencies said providing open data caused people to perceive them as more transparent and open; 78 percent said the public became more aware of public transit services through open data. The report also found internal benefits for transit agencies, including improved use of web services and other IT infrastructure.

App developers are already using open data about public transportation to give people the most up-to-date transit information. Apps designed using Boston transit open data, for example, measurably increased the number of people using public transportation in that city, according to American Public Transportation Association research.

The first version of the National Transit Map is expected to be released this summer. As the process matures and more transit agencies register data, DOT will update and release an increasingly complete National Transit Map as part of the National Transportation Atlas Database.

This article originally appeared on FCW, a sister site to GCN.

About the Author

Bianca Spinosa is an Editorial Fellow at FCW.

Spinosa covers a variety of federal technology news for FCW including workforce development, women in tech, and the intersection of start-ups and agencies. Prior to joining FCW, she was a TV journalist for more than six years, reporting local news in Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Spinosa is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Writing at George Mason University, where she also teaches composition. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia.

Click here for previous articles by Spinosa, or connect with her on Twitter: @BSpinosa.


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