Global Platform for Sharing Information about Public Transportation

The issue

public_companyToday, many transportation companies do not share their knowledge with their customers, or if they do, it is on a need to know basis. For example, the information is available as a mobile application developed by the public transportation company or as a web site. This is a lock down of information. Public has a meaning and that is to serve the population.

The ecosystem

In the past, public transportation companies have dealt with all the aspects of carrying  people across the city. This is no longer true.  Today, with the advent of web and mobile platforms, people want more, no, they deserve more. In other words, something that public companies cannot offer or if they do, has a high cost. In the sharing economy, everyone is a producer and a consumer. The skew is clear. Many consumers, several providers, but definitely more than one singular producer.

Everything has changed when private companies started to question the existing needs of commuters as well as the existing resources. Chris Harrelson started with a small project that was to become what is called now GTFS. Other GTFS pioneers adopted quickly the system.

The sharing platforms

Several sites dedicated themselves to offer open data sets to the general audience. GTFS Data Exchange was the first global platform to offer such information about the public transportation companies. Then came TransitFeeds.  Google is lurking, ever hungry for new data sets. So efficient is Google that it does not need a sharing platform. As soon as the Search identifies GTFS data on one of the sites it is indexing, it adds it to the Maps.

The missing part

Today, there are about 1200-1400 GTFS data sets available. This is but a small part of the full potential to be reached. Every city above 100000 inhabitants should automatically provide GTFS feeds to the world. Sadly, most of the countries lie behind what we could call the standard. But there is good news. More and more people understand the advantages of the sharing economy. The  public transportation companies may not gain money from opening their data, but what does the word public stand for. After all, the purpose of such companies is to serve the citizens.

The possible future

I can give here only my point of view. If more and more GTFS data sets become available, more and more developers can use them. New ideas can bring on new initiatives, new ventures, and finally new ways to help people. Mobile apps are just one category of such inventions. Partnerships with other companies constitute a big chunk with a huge potential for development.  The more efficient the transportation becomes, the better the city develops and, maybe, we will be closer to what some call the smart city.

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