Friday Fun: Using Open Data to Visualize Public Transport, in Videos
Open GTFS Visualizations

Open data can help the private sector develop powerful visualizations of how public transit works. Photo by kris krüg/Flickr.

Talk to any data expert, and you’ll probably hear about how data is revolutionizing urban transport. Without access to travel information, people are left in the dark when it comes to planning their day—a major inefficiency for any city.

For many years, the problem remained of how to translate transit data into a shareable and readable format for wider audiences. Then in 2005 General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) was developed, which created a common standard for data that allows transit data to be universally understood. Google and other companies now use this transport data to accurately estimate travel times, allowing commuters to use their time more efficiently.

Open, publicly accessible information on public transport makes city metros and buses more accessible, and can help people better plan for their travels needs. Open GTFS feeds are a major example of how open data can improve government services by reducing informational barriers. Open data can help foster a dialogue between various stakeholders and city planners to design better, human-centered transport. Additionally, open data can help bring in the private sector to develop mobile phone apps independent of the government.

Below are 5 cities that are using open GTFS feeds to make transit information accessible. These visualizations from STLTransit demonstrate how public transit is moving people around the world:

Nairobi, Kenya


This video of Nairobi, Kenya shows the flow of railways (red) and buses (white) in the city. The flow of traffic increases during the day and peaks during the evening rush hour. The model also gives us an intuitive idea of how transport corridors in a city. Understanding how corridors contribute to economic development is key for long-term transport planning.

Santiago, Chile

Subway and metro lines are given tails to help show the modal split within this visualization of Santiago, Chile. Different bus and metro lines are given different colors to highlight the various routes. Furthermore, the numbers in the lower left signify the total number of vehicles in use.

London, United Kingdom


London is one of the most populated cities in Europe and has one of the most extensive transport systems in the world. Again, subways and metro lines are given tails to help show different modes and differentiate between lines. This vast network of intertwining options shows how systems can reach their highest potential.

Washington, DC


The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and the DC Circulator bus system made GTFS data available for this visualization, which shows one weekday (4am to 4am) of transit activity in the DC metropolitan region.

São Paulo, Brasil


With over 11 million people, São Paulo has a lot of people to move. This visualization uses a combination of colors and tails to show various transport options.

What other engaging transit visualizations did we miss? Share in the comments below!

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