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Bike Sharing

Bike-Share Open Data Standard Clears the Way for Better Trip Planning Apps

1:58 PM EST on November 25, 2015

It's about to get easier to plan trips that include bike-share.

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It's about to get easier for developers of apps like Citymapper to incorporate bike-share data.
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Yesterday, the North American Bikeshare Association, a trade group representing transportation agencies and private firms involved in operating bike-share systems, announced that it is adopting an open data standard. NABSA includes Motivate, the company that operates Citi Bike, Divvy, Bay Area Bike Share, and several other systems in American cities.

The policy means that data about station locations and bike and dock availability will be much easier for software developers to incorporate into trip planning apps. Bike-share data will be released in the same format that transit agencies use, known as the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS).

Previously, variations between systems made the use of bike-share data a cumbersome, one-city-at-time process for developers. Motivate spokesperson Dani Simons said in an email that the open data platform clears the way for rapid integration of bike-share information by companies with huge user bases, like Google and Apple.

"Transit provides a standard data feed already," she said, "which makes it easier for these bigger players to provide transit information to customers, which in turn makes it easier for an individual to decide to take the MTA or the Tokyo Metro or the Portland Max, even if they're new to taking transit in New York, Tokyo or Portland. We want that same level of seamlessness and ease for bike share customers as well."

The bike-share open data standard should also prove useful in other contexts. The GTFS format has enabled sophisticated but accessible geographic analysis like the Regional Plan Association's "Access to Jobs" map, which showed the number and type of jobs you can reach from a given location using different modes of travel.

"I expect we will see similar tools looking at the impact of bike-share, because the effort of getting started and consuming a data feed will be much reduced," said Motivate's Frank Hebbert. "Exactly what function those tools have and the questions they investigate is up to the ingenuity of software and transportation people. I'm excited to see what they come up with."

Have a great Thanksgiving, Streetsblog readers. We'll be publishing regularly again on Monday.

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