Filtering Public Transport (ZURICH, but everywhere else, too...)

I always want to find tracers of public transportation in cities I am to visit. I never can! :open_mouth:

When I filter for Zurich (my current destination) I get either all the zurich tracers or none. How can I only get the trans/subways, etc? Or for San Francisco, how could I get the bus system? Zurich is my current concern, but the issue is the same and being a CA resident I would like to learn more. I know the information is out there, but I don’t know how to find it.


        Couchsurfer  :sunglasses:

How are you trying to do this at the moment?

Well, I’m a noob to this forum and osm… easy enough to center in on Zurich, but when I try search queries I either get all kinds of lame traces (like many thousands of “oh I went jogging here and here’s where I went” etc), or nothing at all. I would have assumed that there would be some place, SOME place where such information would be filtered and provided - I travel all over the world (not bragging but it’s true) and every city I go to I have the same question: Last summer in San Jose, Costa Rica, where they have SO MANY buses, I could only find a few traces from friends who are avid gps users and had their local buses, but that’s all. Given that people are watching this thread already, surely this is an important topic and relevant to people’s use of their wares?
Thank you in advance,
Couchsurfer ;):lol::rolleyes::slight_smile: Ooo love the emoticons

So you want to download the GPS tracklogs (traces) that people have collected while going by public transport? The search system in OSM for gps tracklogs is very bad and you are going to have a hard time to get anything out of it.


Yea so however they get there (tracks, other ways) I just want to be able to know how to get to a train or whatever when I am looking at my gps, and know where the train is going!
ok thanks any other ideas out there?

Couchsurfer, maybe you are used to using other GPS sites where tracklogs and final information are the same, like for example collection of hiking routes people went. In OSM these are two different things. You have the tracks that people upload and there is not a lot of options for searching them, mostly by the tags that users give them, they might indicate that it was public transport or maybe not, and even if, everybody can do it in any way they choose.

However, you also have the finished OSM data. There is a lot of information about public transport, in a more or less standardized fashion, look at as a starting point. So if you want to have that information on your GPS, the easiest would be to use an OSM map on your device. or could be starting points for that.

But if you want to add the public transportation info to your GPS without using an OSM map, it would be more difficult. You can download the raw OSM data for a region as an XML file with the export tab on the mail OSM page, but how to extract the stuff that interests you (with the relevant tags) and how to make that readable for your GPS device on top of the map that’s already in it, I don’t know.

It would really help if you have somekind of example of what it is you want to do, because even though Jochen gave a good answer I still don’t understand the question. :slight_smile: Do you have any site/map provider that is doing this at the moment commercially or freely.

Basically I want to go to Zurich with my gps and get around on public transportation. Buses, trains, etc. The same is true with San Francisco. One would think that there would be ‘tracks’ etc, that you could upload over your typical garmin etc map, and just go from there… you know, like go to this corner and catch a bus you know is coming, knowhatimean?

Not sure how to be more clear. Yea I know there are printed public transport maps but still… I mean I’m even able to know tide heigth for surfing, would have though that getting around a city would be available, but I guess not. I don’t expect embedded times for the trains or buses though that would be AMAZING, but hey… For example online there are are satellite photos of Zurich with dots that move that show the exact place that the trains are at any given time. You can click on the dot and even follow the train. They are ‘estimates’ (though they are working on syncing it with real-time data, but Zurich is known for being on time, etc) but super-useful if you are just running out of the house and wanting to know how long you will wait for a train. (see: )
No, there is not other provider that I am aware of that does this, for a gps, and I posted on the forums for and someone suggested I try here! That’s all! Any ideas for me?

So, would a Garmin map that shows railways and stations etc. suit you? Because such maps are available, not specifically for public transport but the maps contain those as well. Please note that OSM does not cover every public transport facility completely (yet), especially busstops is something that is missing a lot. Timetables are certainly not a part of OSM (yet).

I guess, this is the best we can do atm. Download a Garmin map of Switzerland or the Bay area (San Fransico) and see how good it is for you…

Would be nice to have someone take that fight, and got us good (free) offline API access. :slight_smile: hint hint Couchsurfer.

But I think you will see this in mobile 3G GPSes using html/flash sooner than you will see the timetables in a freely available data format

Yes, timetables are, by most public transport companies, considered private property protected by the database copyright laws (even when they publish their data on billboards, website, or papers). In short: they see their data as a product, hence they want money for it.

OK so if there is anything at all you guys need from Zurich as far as any data, etc, I would be more than happy to do whatever reasonable that I can! I do have the mapsource map for zurich, but of course it does not offer what I was looking for (bus routes, train routes, etc etc). I’m a little unsure what API means and your hint, etc… so I’m doing a little reading about that. Care to elucidate?

Anyway I'll be in Zurich on Saturday, hitting Saunas, etc, and by monday should be operational, hopefully capable of not losing myself too too badly in this exciting, extraordinary city!  I'm still happy to follow up this concept because I travel so much and, as I mentioned, for example, in San Jose, Costa Rica this summer such data as bus companies would have been unbelievably helpful (though I imagine difficult to keep current in such a country).

In interests me that such data as time-tables would be so protected, given that publishing them only increases viability.  Such is the case in Costa Rica that buses are privately run.  However in Zurich one might assume that, as in LA or San Fran, the systems for transport are publicly held and operated, with city funds etc, and copyright issues would not be a problem, particularly in open-source format where maps are continually evolving.  I have heard concerns on the part of publishers where they do not want to put out information that might change or be (gosh darn it) relied upon because of liability issues, but I don't honestly understand it.  I mean The Lonely Planet does so, so why should it be a problem?

I must say it’s so nice to hear from everyone on this! THANK YOU! I will be in Zurich for a month and of course will continue to stop by on the forum. I’ve been here before but just in passing.

What emj means with API’s is that in an ideal world, the timetables (and perhaps even the routes) would be maintained by the public transport company and provided to 3rd party applications like OSM via some sort of service (API = Application Programming Interface) for free. If the transport systems are publicly held then there already might be such a service but commercial companies most probably don’t.

While OSM (you) can aim at maintaining this information by itself (e.g. by riding every bus, tram, train, metro, etc. now and then), I’m sure we will never be able to do this reliably for a long time ourselves.

My question becomes, what would be the ideal, unifying API “format” - hopefully I am using the term correctly - to ‘plug-into’ OSM, etc. How would such data need to be submitted/should be, etc? In an ideal world? Thank you for indulging my creativity.

That’s a good question, the answer probably is money… :slight_smile: There is google transit, if they succeed to get correct data from all transportation companies all over they are going to have good place to have ads on.

Modelling public transportation is pretty easy that’s why everyone does their own version (I’m not sure if there is a company selling these kind of solutions)

Well, in the age of Web 2.0, AJAX and scattered information services the answer is XML. But this won’t help you because by saying that you’re using XML says nothing about how you represent your data :stuck_out_tongue: I am not aware of any standard for exchanging timetables etc.

Ok, the same question has popped-up on the mailinglist as well. Some interesting information in there, especially the post from Peter Miller. He mentions the Google Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) as data exchange format for public transport information. Searching the web on this format delivers some interesting results.

yes, if I find a method to get specific things, I will tell you