Open Data, Licenses and Ownership

Interoperable Data

Transit data formats should be able to interface with third party software applications such as trip planning apps. This feature, often referred to as data interoperability, opens up a wide variety of transit options to travelers, increases revenue potential for transit agencies and entrepreneurs and gives granular data to cities to inform planning.

In large part, data interoperability is enabled by shared data specifications such as the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). GTFS is an open data format that is separated into two parts. GTFS-Static describes transit stops, routes, schedules and fares and GTFS-realtime provides RTI.

There are certain requirements for using GTFS-realtime. Namely GTFS-Static data must contain specific elements and meet quality standards. Once these standards are met, GTFS-realtime can be used to provide RTI.


Agencies need to specify data ownership and access rights in contracts with service providers to ensure their full access and ability to use the data. Agencies should have irrevocable, perpetual and unrestricted rights to their data. Critical terms include free access to application programmer interfaces (APIs), reports and documentation, and the right to archive and analyze historical data


Agencies should make their data available to third parties under “open” terms in order to maximize its value and ensure riders can use their preferred transit app. In many countries this requires licensing the data. There are two types of licenses that may be required.

The information on this page should not be constituted as legal advice.