General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS Spec)

Creating a General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS Spec) file can be done a number of ways. If it is a small company with only one or two routes with only a few trips a month, then you can use a simple editor.  You can limit the file to just the route, stop, and timetable information.

If it is a little more complex, then you can use a product like excel or an excel tool to create the file.  This helps, but very quickly can be challenging as you need to ensure all the relevant files that get zipped up to make a GTFS file are all aligned.  e.g. You need to make sure there are no typos and consistency is key.

Of course with these first two methods you will need to learn the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS Spec) in detail.  For most people who are small, this is definitely not their core business.  Your real business is ensuring passengers get from A to B, comfortable and efficiently with good financial outcomes, and anything that takes you away from  this function is a needless distraction.

The next solution is a GTFS Editor such as AddTransit.  These take away the complexity of the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS Spec), leave you to enter the data that matters to you and are low cost.  e.g. Your stops, your routes, your timetable.  Additionally, it makes consistency and updates easier, reduces the time to create and maintain the GTFS file, and offers the fare, transfer and detail information for when your ready.  And if you want to take your business to the next level, you could add on real time status updates and vehicle tracking.

Of course, if you have budgets in the hundreds of thousands, there are also the premium products which offer good solutions but at many times the price.

Obviously, we are a little biased here at AddTransit, as we think an online GTFS Editor is the best solution for most companies and that’s why we work hard each day to make it easier for you.

Have a good weekend

AddTransit: The GTFS tool to create GTFS feeds

When we designed AddTransit, we wanted the easiest possible tool to create GTFS feeds.

After our initial reading of the General Transit Feed Specification, it became obvious that the GTFS standard was a simple solution that got complex very quickly.  Additionally, for big transport companies with their large IT departments, the standard seemed cumbersome as it used zipped comma delimited text files for documenting the schedule and route information, whereas for small companies even these simple technicalities were often too large a learning curve for them to climb.

Our vision, at AddTransit, was to build a simple GTFS tool that could make the GTFS format and it’s promise of easily communicating timetables and offering journey planning in multiple ways both affordable and simple.  We took the specification and broke it down into it’s key components,  designed screens that we believe are inherently intuitive and looked for opportunities for improvement in terminology and data entry.

We realise that creating and maintaining schedules is a challenging task by itself, even before you get around producing and updating GTFS  files.  That’s why we try to give you simple and straightforward solution to the complexities of GTFS.

Of course, the technical nature of the GTFS spec is still behind it all, but we hope that our great user interface, responsive customer service and affordable product will make your job of communicating and marketing a bus, train, ferry or shuttle schedules, so much easier.

Have a great day!

GTFS – Why you are missing out on Passengers

Increasingly, online maps and journey planning apps are the new “someone to ask” about how to get somewhere and it’s highly likely your business is not the answer they are giving…

It used to be enough just to get to #1 on Google search results.  However, that’s changed with the advent of Location Based Searches and Journey Planning smartphone Apps.  If your business involves taking passengers from A to B (and maybe back again), then to compete properly you now need your timetable, pickup and drop-offs appearing in these search results and journey apps.

More and more, tourists and irregular travellers are relying on these online mapping services to find their way around unfamiliar places and if your business is missing from these search results, then it’s highly likely they’ll choose one of the other alternatives offered.

To see if you or a business you know is missing out try this quick test.  Go to the following page (https://addtransit.com/missing-out.php) and enter one of the business’s pickup and destination locations.  If the business’s timetable and services do appear, then well done!  Otherwise, read on.

So, how do you get onto the online maps and journey planners?  Unfortunately, the schedule or timetable on your webpage, or your own custom built journey planner is just not enough.

You will need to create a GTFS file.  A GTFS file is a special type of file that contains information about your business, its schedule and timetable, and its routes and stops including their latitudes and longitudes.  The GTFS file is used by the online maps and journey planners to add your data to their systems.  There’s a number of ways to create a GTFS file, but if you have limited time or technical skills then getting a company such as AddTransit.com to do it for you, is a quick and cost effective solution.

Once the GTFS file is created, then you need to get the companies that use GTFS files to use it.  This normally involves adding a link on your website and submitting it to both GTFS directories and to the various search engines and journey planning app companies.  Each company has different submission forms, timeframes, and acceptance conditions.  If you got a company to create the GTFS file for you, then they should submit it for you.  Otherwise you’ll have to learn how to do it yourself.

Of course your timetable, stops and routes will change, so like all your marketing and customer service information, it’s important to keep the GTFS file up to date.  That way your passengers should be able to see your latest information.

Best of luck and have a great day.

Tour Reservation Software – Bookings and Tickets

If your tour involves travelling with multiple pick-ups and drop-offs, then you should have a look at AddTransit’s online tour reservation software.

AddTransit - Tour Reservation Software

We know that when running a tourism operation that has multiple pick-ups from different locations, that it is important to obtain this pick-up information at the time of booking.  If you don’t have a online tour reservation software or system that captures this information automatically, then you’ll to collect and compile this list manually later.. and you’ve got better things to do.

AddTransit gives you the ability to create an on-boarding manifest, understand capacity, forecast potential delays, and at the end of the tour know who needs to depart at each location.

You don’t want passengers missing their pick-up or at the end of a great tour, finding that sleeping passenger has missed their stop!

Have a good day.

 

GTFS Benefits – Easy for Tourists!

One of the reasons that GTFS is great is that it makes it easier for tourists.  This is one of the “soft” passenger GTFS benefits.

Before GTFS, when tourists visited a new city, if they wanted to use public transport they would need to learn how to use the cities public transport website, app or paper based schedules.  Each cities information was displayed differently, so even if they were regular public transport users at home, they still had a learning challenge when they went somewhere new.

GTFS Benefits -Tourism: Before GTFS

After GTFS is made available for a city, it means that tourists can use their preferred journey planner (e.g. Google Maps, Rome2Rio, etc.) to see the cities local information.  Now the tourists can focus on navigating their way around the city instead of learning how to navigate their way around the website, app or paper schedules.  An additional benefit, is that a number of these GTFS journey planners are multi-lingual, meaning that now the city is far more friendly to tourists whose primary language is different to the primary language of the city.

GTFS Benefits - Tourism- After GTFS

Of course, some may say that it makes cities less unique, however GTFS gives smaller cities the ability to present themselves in a way that their budget would never normally stretch to, and less face it.. not many people travel with the aim of experiencing/coming to grips with a cities public transport website/app.

So in summary, one of the GTFS benefits is that it’s a great way for making your city friendlier for tourists.  And for tourists, the benefit is they now can explore so many more places with a sense of confidence that they will get where they want to go, knowing when they have to leave and when they will arrive.

Happy travelling!

 

 

Bus Ticketing Software – 7 Keys to Success

Here are 7 key things that your Online Bus Ticketing Software should have for you to be successful.

1. Journey planner

You software should allow your passengers to review a number of different journey options to allow them to determine the best route and time to accomplish their journey.

2. Online Ticket Payments

The system should allow passengers to make payment immediately whilst they are online booking the tickets.  Online ticket payments provides passengers the convenience and comfort of knowing their journey is secured, whilst at the same time reduces the likelihood of them looking at at alternative travel options.  Online payments is likely to increase your revenue whilst at the same time reduces the cash/payment handling at the front line.

3. Email Confirmation of Ticket Bookings and Reservations

The passengers should receive an email confirmation so that they fully understand what travel they have booked.  An email also allows them to refer back to their booking at a later date and will reduce the number of customer queries.

4. Passenger Manifest

A passenger manifest must be able to be produced for the driver or if available, the bus conductor or host.  This makes it quicker and easier for them to verify the correct passengers are boarding and departing the bus at each stop.

5. Customer Service Functionality

Passengers will consider online booking as just one more channel for them to communicate and transact with your business.  This means that customer service staff who answer telephones, work at ticket desks, etc. need to be able to review booking and travel information and make any necessary changes that are allowable within your bookings and reservation policy.

6. Reports (e.g. Forward Capacity, Historical Capacity Reports)

Your bus ticketing software should provide a number reports that allow you to plan both short and long term.  Such reports include capacity reports, that allow you to see how much spare capacity a vehicle has today or in the retrospective sense, how much capacity a vehicle had for a similar trip in the past.  This allows you to determine if additional capacity needs to be made available.

7. Payments

Of course online bus ticketing software is only a success if you get paid quickly.  You need to be able to ensure that the passengers fares gets to you quickly while at the same time maintaining a small float for any refunds that may need to be issued.

Well that’s the 7 keys to success.  There’s plenty of other things to consider, but having these 7 fulfilled will put you in a good position.

Have a great day!

Create GTFS data feeds / GTFS Software

Creating GTFS data feeds can mean a couple of things.  It can mean creating the the static General Transit File Specification file which contains the basic information about the schedule, stops, routes with optional information such a fares and maps.  But it can also mean creating realtime status updates (GTFS Realtime) and providing data that shows your vehicles current positions.

Although you can use text editors to create GTFS files or excel templates, the reality is that these are not inherently designed to ensure that the interdependencies between files are maintained and the risk of human error overriding the basic checks remains high.  Additionally, they are not fully integrated with mapping and timetable functions so that there is a lot of switching between software.  If you are an extremely well funded transportation company then you may get GTFS functionality as part of or an add-on to your existing enterprise transportation software package.  But for the majority of other companies, GTFS Software such as AddTransit.com that is specifically designed to create GTFS files and realtime data is the ideal solution.

GTFS software should be simple and easy enough to deliver the basic schedule for a small shuttle bus company while at the same time robust enough to handle complex scheduling and real-time solutions for citywide public transport and interstate/multi-country transit, ferry and airline companies.

This is our aim every day at AddTransit…. to make transportation easier.

Have a great day.

How Real Time Transit Information works

Today, we thought we’d have a quick look at how real time transit vehicle positioning works…

Real time transit information
How Real time transit information works

 

The diagram above provides a simplistic representation on how vehicles positions are determined and then combined to provide real time transit information on a mobile phone.

Firstly the vehicle typically has an on-board Global Positioning System (GPS) device.  The GPS device uses signals from satellites, telecommunication towers and even local wifi to determine where the vehicle is physically located.  The amount of signals available will depend on the vehicle, it’s location and the specifications of the GPS device.  The greater number of signals that the device has access to, the more accurate it can be.

The GPS device will determine its position in terms of latitude, longitude and also provide a level of accuracy.  The vehicle will then transit the GPS location and some identifying information (e.g. a vehicle id, route id, etc.) via the internet to a computer.

The computer then combines a variety of vehicle’s GPS positions to produce the data in the form of a GTFS real time data feed.  This data feed’s standardized GTFS realtime format makes it easy for Google and the various transit apps developers to display many bus, ferry, train and public transport companies information in a consistent way.  The position can be displayed on laptops, PC’s or tablets.  As the vehicle moves along, the updated position is passed through this process, allowing the end-user to identify the location of the vehicle and make informed decisions about their travel journey.

Well… that’s the simple explanation. We’ll delve into the detail in future posts.

Have a good weekend.

GTFS RealTime Status News

Today (Wed, 3 June 2015)there has been a flurry of news articles about GTFS Realtime Status.

Why? Well, because yesterday in the Google Map’s Blog,  Karen Grunberg the Technical Program Manager from Google Transit announced that they are adding 25+ new location for real-time transit info across six places: U.K., Netherlands, Budapest, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle.  She goes on to say “This real-time transit info will let you see live arrivals for buses, metros and subway systems—and even alert you to cancelled routes—so you can better navigate the intricate and unpredictable world of transit in major cities around the world.”

Here’s the link to her blog post (http://google-latlong.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/mind-gapp-for-real-time-transit.html).

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan follows on in an article on Gizmodo (http://gizmodo.com/google-just-made-it-easier-to-see-exactly-how-late-your-1708532452) with a couple of nice screen shots showing how a 4 minute delay for  bus trip would be displayed.

So in you’re not online yet, how do you get your cities real-time data online?  Well, in Seattle’s case it helped that Brian Ferris, the developer of the widely used OneBusAway app, was hired by Google (http://www.geekwire.com/2015/onebusaway-creator-brings-seattles-real-time-transit-data-to-google-maps/).  But for everyone else the best way is to create a GTFS real-time transit feed.  GTFS is the acronym for General Transit Feed Specification, the international standard for displaying schedule and other transit information.

If you want to know more about  how to create GTFS realtime status or how to display vehicles positions using GTFS, just contact us.

One final comment: It seems like forever to get to this many cities with realtime data, but in reality Google only launched their realtime transit status service in 2011, only four short years ago (http://googleblog.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/know-when-your-bus-is-late-with-live.html)

Have a great day!

Steam Train Ticket Software – 5 Key Things to Think About

When considering steam train ticket software for your heritage railway, there are many things to think about.  Here’s five that we think are key:

1) Does it do what you need it to?

You need to ensure that the software meets the needs of your business. You’ll need to check that the software handles your fare structure (i.e. Adult, Child, Family, Seniors, Special Trips, Discount Offers, etc.)  Do you need to have passenger manifests or historical reports?  Do you want to be aware when passengers with special needs might need support? Can passengers sit anywhere or travel on any trip during the day, or is there restrictions and does the software support this? You’ll need to identify what you have now, determine what you want in the future, and be aware that some things may need to change.

2) Who will be using it and what training is required?

Many heritage and steam railways are run primarily by volunteers.  This means that any new systems/software must be simple and require minimal training.  Determining who will need to be trained and their level of training, is directly related to the who will be using it and why.  Some users will provide customer service in the form of front desk or telephone operators, others may be managing boarding and seating, whereas others will be more concerned about the accounting or future projection of demand.  Be sure you know who will use the software, the type of training they require and understand that volunteers will have restricted and often, differing availabilities for training.

3) Where will the software be installed?

In the old days, software was created “bespoke” or individually built for each customer.  The software was then installed on personal computers, tills/cash registers and run either standalone or over a network.  This had significant upfront cost and with limited budgets meant that upgrades were often deferred indefinitely.   Today software is typically available via the internet with data stored in “the cloud”.  Access to the software is via WIFI or 3G/4G services meaning that you are no longer limited to specific locations.  This allows additional “ticket offices” up and down the line that only require a wireless connection and iPad, tablet or PC to operate.  It also allows passengers to purchase their tickets online and reservations to be checked while the train is moving.  The software is automatically upgraded for all users, meaning you always have the latest version.

4) Cost

Cost has been left until now (number #4), because although budgets are always limited, the first three reasons will determine the total cost.  The total cost must include the upfront, ongoing and organisational costs when choosing steam train ticket software.  The software costs can be structured a number of ways including the number of users, a periodic fee (e.g. monthly or annual) or a one-off cost with maintenance upgrades.  However, it is often the hidden costs of 1) the functionality that is available, 2) the users and time/effort and training, and 3) the way that the software is deployed, that will end up having a much greater impact on the day to day running of your railway.

5) Other factors

Of course, there are a variety of other factors that will affect how you choose which steam train ticket software is right for you.  They include the level of vendor software support and how passionate they are about steam/heritage vehicles, the current software you have and if it is truly “upgradeable” when the hidden costs are calculated,  and then more emotional factors such as “I like the way the screen does this”.  Be careful when considering other factors, as although they may seem important, the real consideration should always be passenger and team experience and the best return on your investment.

That’s all for today.  Have a great weekend.