The National Transit Map
The National Transit Map is a nationwide catalog of fixed-guideway and fixed-route transit service in America that is gleaned from publicly available information. A geospatial database is included that can be used to display transit agencies’ stops, routes, and schedules for the purpose of supporting research, analysis, and planning.
The initial National Transit Map, released in August 2016, consisted of data submitted to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) in response to a March 2016 request for the data. Data from 270 transit agencies provided information on over 398,000 stops and stations and almost 10,000 routes. Development of the National Transit Map is a continuing process.
The national, openly available map of fixed-guideway and fixed-route transit service in America allows the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to demonstrate the importance and role of transit in American society and to identify and address gaps in access to public transportation. It supports research, planning and analysis on the benefits of transit, such as the economic impacts of transit on a community’s economic development, or on reducing poverty in low-income neighborhoods. It is not intended to replace existing customer services available through transit agency websites and commercial trip planning service providers.
The National Transit Map is a National Geospatial Data Asset (NGDA) within the National Transportation Atlas Database (NTAD), a set of nationwide geographic databases of transportation facilities, networks, and associated infrastructure. It is a substantial update to the previous transit-focused map, which was released in 2004 and only included the location of fixed-guideway transit.
The National Transit Map combines voluntarily provided General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data for both fixed-guideway and fixed-route service. GTFS describes a transit agency’s scheduled operations by collecting data on stops, routes, and scheduled service for both fixed-guideway and fixed-route service. (GTFS data is not real-time (RT), but it has a real-time counterpart: GTFS-RT.)
Almost all of the largest transit agencies already collect and make GTFS data available—either publicly through their website or directly to private companies. Despite the increasing use of GTFS data, there is currently no national transit map that transit agencies, advocates, and researchers can use to see the extent of the U.S. transit system.
A number of entities have aggregated portions of the nation’s GTFS data. Members of the transit community led the way in developing and hosting a number of GTFS websites, but the level of resources required to be comprehensive and fully sustainable over time can be challenging. Until the National Transit Map, one factor contributing to these gaps was the variety of restrictive terms that some transit agencies set on the use of their data. Until now, if the public, planning agencies, researchers, or government agencies wanted to access this information for analytical purposes, they had to request the data from individual agencies on a case-by-case basis.
This schedule data provides significant value to transit customers, transportation planners, researchers, and other stakeholders. For example, GTFS data is used in the location affordability portal developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and DOT to examine the combined costs of housing and transportation across the country. GTFS is also used by researchers conducting connectivity analysis, such as the University of Minnesota Accessibility Observatory.
The DOT received significant feedback from the transportation data user and research community, which was asking for this sort of data set to be made available for research and data analysis purposes.