A Brief History of GTFS

Time within each minute that Muni buses are typically reported at each location

Hang out around transportation geeks enough and you'll hear people throwing around the term GTFS. People throw it around on Twitter like crazy. It's an important part of the transit data landscape, so let's take a look at it. 

GTFS is also known as the General Transit Feed Specification. It was originally known as the Google Transit Feed Specification and was used to integrate transit into Google Maps, but the name was changed as more people began to use GTFS beyond the Google platform. GTFS allows agencies to easily publish their route data so that it can be used for trip planning, data visualization, and improved accessibility. For a good history of GTFS, read this chapter from Beyond Transparency

Portland's TriMet was one of the first agencies to really implement GTFS to much scuccess. And soon others like BART and MBTA followed suit. For a comprehensive list of agencies with GTFS feeds check out the GTFS Data Exchange. One of the more recent GTFS developments has been the launce of GTFS-realtime which, as the name implies, allows agencies to provide realtime information about transit services to users. 

A company spun out of ITS Berkeley research has extended GTFS to include operational data. VIA Analytics recently launched VTFS, which is based upon GTFS but also has AVL data. They also have visualization and tracking products, and they're all open source.