A new frontier for Whiz and how we get schedules
Today, we’re launching in many new locations throughout the UK and Europe, including:
✓ Northern Ireland
✓ The Isle of Man
✓ Frankfurt, Germany
✓ Munich, Germany
✓ Leipzig, Germany
All right, all well and good, but so what? Well, these locations have been on our ‘hit list’ for some time. But the problem has always been that we needed to build a dedicated pipeline for these cities.
Let’s take a step back: in most cities we cover, the local transit agencies publish their schedules in GTFS format — developed by Trimet in Portland and Google in the late 2000s that allows public transit agencies around the world to publish their stop locations, routes and schedules in a format that anyone can use to build online tools like maps and apps to show departure times and A-to-B directions.
We have a dedicated pipeline for GTFS, which allows us to download and process hundreds of feeds for over 150 cities in less than three hours. We do it six times a day, and send out the completed database to our servers located around the world, from San Francisco and New York to London and Sydney.
Unfortunately, we’re getting to the stage where the places we want to cover don’t have GTFS feeds: they may use local standards like ATCO-CIF or NETEX — formats designed for enterprise systems, now open to the public. We’ve spent the last few months building a new internal app that takes all of these local exotic feeds and converts them into universal GTFS. And now, finally, we can cover places we couldn’t before.
Finally, we cover the entire British Isles. Before, we were missing Northern Ireland (different formats), the Isle of Man (missing stop locations) and the Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey (custom web feeds). Now we cover them all, and with real-time departure predictions to boot.
Certain parts of Germany were tricky as well: Munich and Frankfurt eluded us for years, until the German government opened up the country’s public transport data. It’s not GTFS, but we could suck it in, process it, and produce crystal-clear GTFS feeds for the local U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses our system could use. Again, real-time predictions come as standard — something our friends at Google and Apple haven’t quite mustered yet.
We’ve got a great new superpower — we can take in any local feed that comes our way and turn it into friendly GTFS. What’s next? If Whiz doesn’t cover your city yet, tell us! With a bit of your local knowledge, we can build a transit app that covers the globe. We’re 160 cities in, and growing…