- Author: Laurel Schwartz
- Date: August 15, 2023
In NW PA, the Crawford Area Transportation Authority (CATA) has been working with Pennsylvania state transportation agency PennDot to develop…
Open data is already a part of the everyday lives of most people in the United States.
For end users, it’s fairly straightforward to deal with open data when 100 percent of that data comes from a single source, as with NOAA and the US Census Bureau. Good data management practices internal to each agency ensure that the same type of information is available, and in the same format, on a consistent basis.
But what happens when users want to aggregate and analyze data that has been collected and stored by different agencies? The possibilities for variation abound, and if variations across data sets are too numerous, collective analysis may not be possible.
A solution to potential variation is the use of data standards, which are a set of shared expectations for communication between systems, much like the rules of a common language between people. Most of the time, computers exchange data in an established structure. A data standard defines the overall structure a data producer must adhere to, along with the types and formats of the data elements that fill that structure, with the goal that the data can be reliably interpreted by a data consumer.
When a data standard gets established and multiple data producers use that standard to structure their open data, new possibilities open up for anyone who wants to use that data. Public transportation in the US began its first significant foray into producing standardized open data in 2005 with the creation of what is now called the General Transit Feed Specification. The result has been a significant transformation in how riders engage transit, as well as how transit services and planned and operated. More about that in the next installment of our series, so stay tuned.
Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Sage Kashner (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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