Transit Data Dashboard: the Union Station of open transit data

Ever planned a barbecue, assembled your veggies, your meats, the grill, your apron-with-a-cheeky-saying and friends and loved ones around… You're ready to get cooking. But when you go to fire up the grill, instead of a flame, you get nothing, and you to find your propane tank is dead empty. No grilling today, folks.

A similar feeling is hitting iOS6 users in areas lacking open transit data. They'll be all ready to use the OpenTripPlanner Mobile app only to find that their transit agency doesn't open their data, the app (grill) is there but there's no data (propane) to fire it up.

Luckily a lot of transit agencies across the US and Canada have already opened their data and made it avaiable to anyone to use in trip planning websites or smartphones. Some haven't made their data available or have shared their data exclusively with Google Transit. We give kudos to the ones who have opened data entirely. But transit riders using iOS6 served by agencies that fall into the last two categories will find that they are no longer served with transit directions.

To power our OpenTripPlanner app, we're collecting the public transit data feeds from communities across North America. This summer our fearless intern Matt Conway lead the creation of a transit data repository that scrapes and reassembles data from a variety of sources including GTFS Data Exchange, the U.S. DOT's National Transit Database and the U.S. Census. Over 700 agencies are represented in the OpenPlans Transit Data Dashboard.

Look at all that data.

This database allows us to track publicly available transit feeds and identifies the communities without public data, organizing them by ridership and population from the National Transit Database and US Census.

We'll be using the dashboard to manage our internal workflow for importing new and updated transit feeds, and shepherding data into our processing pipeline where it's converted into the OpenTripPlanner “graphs” that power our routing software.  We've successfully tested this new processing workflow on about a dozen major metros and our back-end data team will be scaling things up in the coming weeks to include dozens more.

We'll be vigilant on adding new agencies to the list and keeping tabs on communit input on when agencies introduce new open data feeds. Think of it as the Strickland Propane for the transit world