Real-time transit information has many benefits to transit riders and agencies, including shorter perceived and actual wait times, a lower learning curve for new riders, an increased feeling of safety, and increased ridership. While many agencies are sharing real-time arrival predictions and vehicle positions with apps like Google Maps, Apple Maps, and the Transit App, data quality is of equal importance to data availability. In one study, 9% of surveyed riders said that they took the bus less often due to errors in real-time information they experienced.
As part of a project funded by the University Transportation Center (UTC) National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), Sean Barbeau, Ph.D, and his team created an open-source software tool that aims to improve the quality of real-time information for travelers by validating data shared by transit agencies in the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) Realtime format.
Now, that tool has been deployed on a massive scale by both the French National Access Point to Transport Data (Point d’Accès National) for the country of France as well as the California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP) under Caltrans for the state of California. Both organizations have created data portals for their respective jurisdictions and have integrated the GTFS Realtime validator into their data pipelines. These data portals allow transit providers in France and California, respectively, to easily review reports on their transit data quality and work with vendors and their own staff to quickly fix errors in their data.
“It’s thrilling to see a tool we developed being used to validate hundreds of transit data feeds around the world,” said Dr. Barbeau. “This will help catch errors early, resulting in a much better experience for travelers using public transit.”