Enabling Cost-Effective Multi-Modal Trip Planners through Open Transit Data

A study conducted by CUTR Senior Research Associate, Edward Hillsman and CUTR Research Associate Sean Barbeau, culminated in the creation of  the open-source software program, GTFS-OSM-Sync (GO-Sync), which  synchronizes crowd-sourced OpenStreetMap (OSM) data and a transit agency’s official General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data. The goal of GO-Sync is to connect the wealth of data from official GTFS datasets with the ability of the OSM community to improve the data. Better transit data helps agencies provide more accurate transit information services.  One such information service is OpenTripPlanner, a new open-source multimodal trip planning system that can be established in any community.

In this project, the research team worked with Florida transit agencies, particularly Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), to see how multimodal data will work in OpenTripPlanner by establishing an OpenTripPlanner website for the Tampa Bay area.  The team used biking and walking data from OSM and GTFS data from the transit agency.

The GO-Sync software begins the synchronization process by uploading new GTFS data into OSM. The program then reviews previously mapped information in OSM and works to mitigate conflicts between the two datasets. The transit agency informs the online mapping community of the new GTFS information and requests their help in verifying the accuracy of the data, including the actual geographic location of the bus stops as well as any amenities (e.g., benches, trashcans, lights). The Go-Sync program then retrieves these improvements to the bus stop inventory and presents them to the transit agency for inclusion in their own datasets. During tests with HART, prior to using GO-Sync there were only 133 bus stops mapped in OSM for Hillsborough County. After using GO-Sync, 3812 new bus stops were uploaded into OSM.  Additionally, over a several month period, OSM users corrected 173 bus stop locations by moving the bus stop in OpenStreetMap to its real geographic location.

Go-Sync is a creative tool useful for areas of the U.S. where there is little mapping activity in OpenStreetMap, as it helps quickly populate OSM with transit data by using existing transit datasets.  The GO-Sync software has been uploaded to a website (click here) http://code.google.com/p/gtfs-osm-sync/ devoted to the program, which contains the actual open-source software application for others to download and modify to meet their own needs.  Since Go-Sync was made available in July 2010, there have been over 1,300 visits to the website from 69 countries, including heavy interest from users in the U.S., Poland, France, and Canada.  To view the working demonstration of OpenTripPlanner, using data improved by GO-Sync, please click here.  To read the final report, please click here.


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