Enabling Cost-Effective Multimodal Trip Planners through Open Transit Data

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Subject Area

mode - bike, mode - pedestrian, place - north america, technology - passenger information


OpenStreetMap, transit, data, OpenTripPlanner, multimodal, public transportation, geographic information systems


This study examined whether multimodal trip planners can be developed using open‐source software and open data sources.
OpenStreetMap (OSM), maintained by the non‐profit OpenStreetMap Foundation, is an open, freely available international
repository of geographic data that individuals contribute about their communities. In the transit industry, Google’s offer of a
free online transit trip planner based on the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) has made GTFS a de facto standard for
describing transit systems and a platform for many other Web and mobile applications. Over 125 public transportation
agencies in the U.S. have put their data into GTFS format. Bus stop locations can link OSM and GTFS data. OpenTripPlanner is
an open‐source multimodal trip planning software system with an active developer community. The study team set up an
instance of OpenTripPlanner for Tampa, Florida, using biking and walking data from OSM, and GTFS data from local transit
agencies, to examine the tool’s ability to route using multimodal data. The study team also recorded multimodal data for the
Tampa region in OSM to examine the current OSM coding conventions and determine the coding system’s ability to support
functions required of a multimodal trip planner, such as providing information on access to transit, wheelchair accessibility, or
conditions that could affect the safety of a trip (e.g., intersection crossings). This study also investigated the use of opensource
software to quickly increase the amount of multimodal data available in OpenStreetMap. The research team created
GTFS‐OSM‐Sync (GO_Sync), a framework and open‐source software tool for synchronizing transit data between the transit
agency’s official GTFS dataset and OSM. GO_Sync connects the wealth of data from GTFS datasets to the ability of the OSM
community to augment and improve the data. During a test deployment of GO_Sync in Tampa, OSM users corrected 173 bus
stop locations. The project demonstrated that it is feasible to implement a multimodal trip planner using open‐source
software and open data sources. Based on existing practices regarding GTFS and OpenTripPlanner, transit schedule and route
data are best obtained directly from transit agencies’ GTFS files. Data on infrastructure for walking and cycling can be
obtained from OSM or from other locally available public‐domain data. This report suggests a few changes to the OSM coding
conventions that would improve OSM’s ability to meet the needs of a multimodal trip planner. The principal barrier to
developing a multimodal trip planner remains the availability of data and, when using OSM as a source of data, the relatively
low participation of U.S. residents in the project, compared to Europe. The OSM community recognizes this as a problem, but
additional research is needed on how best to overcome it. Additional research also is needed on how best to communicate
results from a trip planner to users who may have varying skill and comfort levels when it comes to bicycling and walking


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by National Center for Transit Research, copyright remains with them.