GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) Builder

Trip planning technology (the integration of transit route and schedule data on a map) enables riders to easily use transit to get where they need to go. How can your agency bring trip planning technology onto your website? National RTAP partnered with Marcy Jaffe from Trannsnovation, Inc. to bring you GTFS Builder, a free and easy to use tool to help you create GTFS files to post on trip planning sites such as Google Transit. 

It seems complicated, but GTFS Builder makes it as easy as possible.


Getting Started

You must be logged into the National RTAP Cloud in order to download and use the GTFS Builder tools. Click Cloud Login in the upper right corner of this page to log in or create an account. To learn more, please see the Web Apps Overview page on the main National RTAP website.

Once logged into the Cloud, if you do not see GTFS Builder as one of the web apps on the left side of your dashboard, email support@nationalrtap.org or chat with Tech Support via the button in the upper right corner of this page.


GTFS Builder “How-to” Resources

GTFS Builder Guidebook

The GTFS Builder Guidebook provides a simple step by step instructions for entering data into each tab of the ImportExport file and describes how to use the corresponding Schedule Generator file. The Guidebook includes a checklist which may help to estimate the time to complete each step and track progress.

  Tutorial Videos

What is GTFS and Should My Agency Proceed?

This first video provides an introduction to GTFS and what GTFS looks like on a published trip plan. It also discusses resources needed to develop GTFS, including software and time, and presents options for developing GTFS files.

Trip Planner Licensing Agreements

Understanding trip plan data licensing agreements and what, if any, are the risks. An attorney translates a sample agreement from legalese into English in this video.

An Introduction to GTFS Builder (Download and Setup)

This video offers an introduction to National RTAP’s GTFS Builder tool and describes how is it used to develop GTFS data. The video reviews how the application is downloaded from National RTAP’s website and how to set up a folder/workspace on a desktop appropriate for GTFS. Other topics include enabling GTFS Builder macros, common GTFS terminology and where to find comprehensive GTFS resources. The video expands on information provided in Section 1 of the GTFS Builder Guidebook.

Agency, Calendar, Calendar_dates, Routes, Fare and Transfer Tabs in the ImportExport File

This video demonstrates how data is entered into each of these tabs. The video supports Sections 2, 3, 4, 5 and 13 of the GTFS Builder Guidebook.

Identify Bus Stop Coordinates and Complete the Stops Tab in the ImportExport File

This video demonstrates how bus stop coordinates are established using a combination of Google’s MyMaps and Google Earth Pro. The video also discusses the possibility that agency bus stop coordinates already exist and where they can be found. Once the stops are identified, the video shows how bus stop data is entered into the stops tab. This video supports Sections 6 and 7 of the GTFS Builder Guidebook.

Using the Schedules_V3 Tab in the Schedule Generator File to complete the Trips and Stop Times Tabs in the ImportExport File

This video demonstrates how to develop schedule data using GTFS Builder’s Schedule Generator file and then enter that data into the stop_times and trips tabs in the ImportExport file. The video also provides an in-depth explanation of the important distinction between routes and trip groups. The video supports Sections 8 and 9 of the GTFS Builder Guidebook.

Feed _info Tab, Exporting, Validating and Hosting GTFS Data

This video demonstrates completing the feed_info tab in the ImportExport file, exporting the data into text files, compressing the data, validating/checking the data, resolving common errors and how to host the data so it can be consuming by a trip planner (for example Google). The video supports Section 12 of the GTFS Builder Guidebook.

Creating Trip Group Shapes and Complete the Shapes Tab in the ImportExport File

This video details creating the shape for each trip group using Google’s MyMaps and Google Earth Pro along with entering that data into ImportExport file. A method to check that bus stops are reasonably close to the trip group shape file is also presented. While shapes are optional, riders appreciate seeing the route on the road. The video supports Section 14 of the GTFS Builder Guidebook.

Demand Response Services

Until all trip planners allow flexible on-demand services to be published, GTFS Builders offers an easy workaround to ensure these services are seen on trip planners. This video shows how to build a “flex workaround” dataset within the current constraints of “fixed and timed” schedules required by Google and other trip planners. The video supports Section 15 of the GTFS Builder Guidebook.

Uploading Data to a Trip Planner (such as Google)

Focused primarily on Google’s trip planner, testing, feed configuration, data visualization, how to request to launch and other relevant topics are covered in this video.  This video supports and expands on information offered in Section 16 of the GTFS Builder Guidebook.

Keeping GTFS Up to Date

This summary video reviews how to maintain and update GTFS data using previously created GTFS Builder files.


GTFS FAQs and Best Practices

The Google Transit FAQs and Best Practices for a Quality GTFS Data Feed will help explain some of the history and context of developing GTFS files.

While National RTAP provides tools, instructions, and some technical support, we cannot geocode your stops, build your route map, or correct files for you on a regular basis.

There are other options if your agency wants to maintain the GTFS data but not prepare all the initial files, or vice versa. A partial list of companies that offer these services are listed below under Other GTFS Data Managers.  


Additional Resources

 Below are some of the additional resources available in support of GTFS Builder:


Other GTFS Data Managers

If you would rather not build and/or maintain your GTFS data, these vendors offer GTFS services. You can also see a list of vendors offering GTFS services on this public online spreadsheet


NOTE: these companies are not endorsed by National RTAP and this is not a comprehensive list. Please do your own research before making a decision or starting procurement.

When writing your contract with these companies, we suggest that you ask that the files be returned to you, in case you want to maintain the data.

Conversely, some agencies have found after building their GTFS data that they are not able to maintain it. For those cases, some companies offer customized and targeted GTFS data support services.