What's Missing From Existing Guidance to Policymakers?

An array of governments and NGOs have offered general principles in support of public APIs and open data standards, or guidance on other types of mobility data.

These documents promote good principles and advance the policy discussion. But without clear, specific guidance about what should be included in public APIs and how to secure them, many cities are not requiring them as part of their permitting or licensing programs. As a result, policymakers are missing opportunities to create the more deeply integrated transportation systems, more competitive marketplaces, and more transparent, accountable mobility programs that are enabled by public APIs.

October 2017
Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities

A consortium of transportation NGOs launched the Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities. The project, now under the auspices of the New Urban Mobility Alliance, promotes “public benefits via open data” including “integration and seamless connectivity.” According to the principles, “the data infrastructure underpinning shared transport services must enable interoperability, competition and innovation, while ensuring privacy, security, and accountability... Seamless trips should be facilitated via physical connections, interoperable payments, and combined information.”

Unfortunately, public APIs are not consistently required or available, with policy falling short of the principles agreed to by dozens of governments, NGOs, service providers and companies, including Transit, Uber, Lyft, Zipcar and Lime.

July 2018
NACTO Guidelines

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) released Guidelines for the Regulation and Management of Shared Active Transportation. While it said that “at a minimum, data should be provided to the city in GBFS format,” it did not specify that GBFS feeds should be available to the public. Instead, it says, “cities shall require that companies make anonymized trip data available to the public for use in creating apps that are not affiliated with the companies or city.” Unlike real-time GBFS information, after-the-fact trip information is not useful to most app developers and users.

July 2018
IMLA Guidance

The International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) released Guidance for Regulation of Dockless Micromobility. “Consider what format shared data should be compiled,” IMLA said. “GBFS is useful for real-time data.” IMLA did not say that GBFS should be made available to the public, or offer language to help cities require public, real-time APIs.

January 2019
T4 Shared Micromobility Playbook

Transportation for America released the Shared Micromobility Playbook. It said that “cities should require public application program interfaces” for micromobility fleets and “strive to require and utilize an authenticated, standardized API.” It also says that “real-time data on vehicle availability and operations should also be available via API for use by the city or third-party analysis platforms.” The playbook focused on the needs of municipal operations managers and approved research partners, but did not specify the value in having real-time APIs available to the public.

March 2019
UK DfT Policy Strategy

The UK Department for Transport (DfT) published its Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy policy paper. It lays out a strong set of principles in support of open APIs. “The marketplace for mobility must be open, to stimulate innovation and give the best deal to consumers,” it says. “New mobility services must be designed to operate as part of an integrated transport system combining public, private and multiple modes for transport users. Data from new mobility services must be shared where appropriate to improve choice and the operation of the transport system.”
DfT lays out a clear and comprehensive vision of how open APIs can be used to develop an integrated multimodal network that includes competing operators. But it only provides a roadmap for future decisions by the government, and not specific guidance on how to achieve its goals.

April 2019
League of Cities Overview

The National League of Cities released Micromobility in Cities: A History and Policy Overview. The report encourages cities to “develop a plan and agreement for trip data,” but does not speak to the importance of public, real-time APIs. (It does, however, briefly mention Washington, DC’s public GBFS requirement in the report’s appendix.)

August 2019
UC Davis Recommendations

The UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy released Mobility Data Sharing: Challenges and Policy Recommendations. The report includes GTFS and GBFS in its history of data standards, but its recommendations are primarily concerned with trip and operational data for planners, policymakers, and researchers. The report does not make a strong distinction between data provided to regulators, and the benefits of real-time APIs available to the public.

Read the full report

Prefer a PDF? Download the full report, which includes additional guidance about open mobility data standards.

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