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National Transit Network Level of Service Data and Analysis

(Center Identification Number: 79050-19)

Principal Investigator:

Martin Catala
National Center for Transit Research (NCTR)
Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, CUT 100
Tampa, Florida  33620-5375
813-974-9791    catala@cutr.usf.edu

Background Statement

The General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) offers a robust and comprehensive data format that can be used to improve service planning, provide powerful tools for service evaluation, and ultimately increase ridership. For example, GTFS can provide numerous benefits beyond its immediate application as an itinerary planning tool. Its open-source architecture permits unfettered access to data, thus creating new opportunities for transit agencies to evaluate service and improve ridership experience. GTFS is widely utilized, and most transit customers are able to plan trips based on its data. Its broad acceptance and rich repository of data offers an opportunity to develop evaluations on a nationwide scale.  The creation of a National Transit Network database based on the GTFS may lead to the development of national accessibility and mobility measures.

The realization of a National Transit Network requires the evaluation of the GTFS.  The GTFS was not designed as a National Transit Network database, nonetheless its rapid and popular adoption coupled with its robust information, provides an opportunity for the transit industry to leverage a uniform data format as the foundation of a National Transit Network that supports consistent and widespread transit service evaluation.

Research Objective

The use and development of the GTFS was born out of a collaborative effort that engaged transit professionals and advocates, and underscores the potential GTFS has in standardizing transit performance reporting and evaluation. Consequently, this research promotes the utilization of GTFS by highlighting its benefits, developing a data schema unique for GTFS inventory, identifying measures relating to accessibility and mobility that are integral to gauging transit performance, and making recommendations for a newly formed National Transit Network. Research will also identify the data gaps and limitations currently faced by transit agencies, in order to better articulate the opportunities that overcome obstacles to streamlined information flows.

Research Proposed

More specifically, a number of tasks have been designed to ensure deliverables meet intended goals:

Task 1: Develop a project panel

Task 2: Evaluate the state of GTFS data utilization

Task 3: Develop a schema for maintaining a GTFS dataset

Task 4: Develop GTFS-based measures on mobility and accessibility

Task 5: Evaluate the Recommendation for the establishment of a National Transit Network and level-of-service database

Task 1: Project Management

This task will conduct the overall management of the project including invoicing, progress reports, scheduling and coordinating meetings, reporting on data collection and benefits, and the final report.

Task 2: Develop a project panel

Task 2 will convene a panel of experts that is indicative of the transit community to review GTFS implementation, and provide consistent feedback to the project team and FTA. The project panel will be made of transit industry professionals with experience using GTFS, experts in the area of transit accessibility and mobility, and other transit data stakeholders.

Task 3: Evaluate the state of GTFS data availability

The third task evaluates the current state-of-practice of GTFS utilization in the transit community. Currently, there is no official inventory of the GTFS available for transit agencies in the United States.  The system in place relies upon the good intentions of agencies to publicly announce the availability of their GTFS data, but these data are then documented and uploaded to the GTFS Exchange which is a loosely organized repository of agencies’ GTFS files maintained by an independent software developer that uses GTFS data.  Based on this resource, the research team will attempt to document the number of agencies, the size of agencies, agency characteristics, the vintage, as well as their historical data records. This task will also evaluate the capacity of the GTFS to house a National Transit Network and level of service database. Included in this evaluation will be the identification of competing standards such as N.Y. State’s Schedule Data Profile and international formats.

Task 4: Develop a schema for maintaining a GTFS dataset

Task 4 delineates the development of a schema that will maintain a standardized, GTFS dataset. GTFS data are used by a broad section of transit agencies in the US, as both large and small-scale agencies employ and share such data. Not only will Task 3 investigate the development of a sustainable process for maintaining data, it will outline a process that should be open, transparent, and create a system for agencies to streamline data uploads and historical archiving.

Task 5: Develop GTFS-based measures on mobility and accessibility

Task 5 will build on GTFS’s robust dataset and develop measures to evaluate transit system mobility and accessibility, cornerstones of transit performance. As such, it seeks to capitalize on research efforts from the National Transit Livability Performance Project (NTLPP). The NTLPP serves as a corollary to this project – livability measures pertaining to accessibility and mobility have been developed and are consistent with the goals outlined here.

Task 6: Evaluate the feasibility of a National Transit Network and level-of-service database

The final task will recommend the creation of a National Transit Network (NTN) that establishes benchmarks for national level-of-service data. Consequently, the NTN will recognize gaps in GTFS utilization, identify data reporting limitations, and create a transit data network built upon a standardized, GTFS data infrastructure. Its beneficial role to FTA will be clearly articulated as a result.

Project Schedule

September 2012 to December 2013

Project Budget

Total Project Cost     $150,000




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  • Florida Department of Transportation
  • US Department of Transportation



National Center for Transit Research c/o Center for Urban Transportation Research 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 Tampa, FL 33620-5375