March 29, 2023

Swiftly works with WETA to become the first consumer of the new Operational Data Standard

Morgan Greene
March 29, 2023

Swiftly works with WETA to become the first consumer of the new Operational Data Standard

Morgan Greene
Morgan Greene

Data standards are the keys to unlocking the full value of transit data. Previously, I wrote how the GTFS-rt standard has provided a common data language for transit agencies to understand their fixed-route service. Today, I’m excited to announce a new way to improve service reliability with transit data through the Operational Data Standard (ODS).

Swiftly has officially become the first consumer of ODS data, enabling agencies to monitor and improve their non-revenue service, through our work with the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA).

WETA, a San Francisco Bay ferry system and Swiftly customer, worked with consultant Blinktag to produce data in the ODS format from their scheduling software. Caltrans’ Cal ITP engaged Swiftly to ingest WETA's ODS data in order to get insight into the performance of their non-revenue trips. Combining information from an agency’s GTFS and ODS data gives a full picture of transit vehicle trips and opens the door to improving schedule efficiency and on-time performance for overall service.

"Cal-ITP initiated development of the Operational Data Standard to help transit agencies in California and beyond get more data about deadhead efficiency and personnel utilization without having to pay for costly custom integrations,” says Scott Frazier, ODS Project Manager at Cal-ITP. “From the beginning, Swiftly has been an invaluable partner in advancing Cal-ITP's vision for ODS. Now, Swiftly is also the first company capable of importing ODS data and using that data to generate reports for agency use. This is a tremendous milestone in the implementation of ODS and in making interoperable technology the norm within the transit industry."

“We’re thrilled to work with Swiftly and Blinktag to be the first transit agency to use the new ODS standard,” says Mike Gougherty, Principal Planner for the San Francisco Bay Ferry at WETA. “We’re looking forward to using this data to improve visibility into deadhead and non-revenue trips to increase on-time performance and operational efficiency.”

You can hear more about Cal ITP’s work on empowering agencies to use data standards in our recent webinar featuring Program manager Gillian Gillett.

WETA uses ODS information to improve on-time performance

ODS is a new data standard that extends GTFS to include information about personnel and non-revenue service, giving agencies a comprehensive view into their vehicles - from pull-out to returning to the yard.

The timing and details of non-revenue trips can have a critical impact on overall service. If an operator pulls out from the yard late or is not given enough time to travel to their first stop, they may arrive late to subsequent stops, impacting on-time performance. Alternatively, agencies can identify slack in their schedules if non-revenue trips take less time than expected.

WETA set out to produce an ODS feed to understand whether vehicles were leaving the yard on-time and the impact on their overall on-time performance. Understanding their pullout performance would help WETA work with their contractor to identify opportunities to improve their on-time performance.

WETA worked with Trillium, an Optibus company, to produce their GTFS, and Blinktag, a consultant, to produce data in the ODS format. Blinktag added the ODS information to the GTFS zip file that Swiftly consumes as part of our work to provide WETA’s real-time passenger information. With the ODS and GTFS data combined, Swiftly was able to create pull-out adherence reports for WETA.

“Optibus is excited to work together with our partners and customers to advance open data standards,” says Crissy Ditmore, Head of Public Policy for North America at Optibus. “Data standards like ODS make the entire transit system more reliable and in turn improve traveler experiences. We are proud to build on this initiative and expand use of ODS which is foundationally built upon GTFS, another integral standard for transit operations.”

The impact of the Operational Data Standard

The ODS removes barriers to analyzing non-revenue service, and Swiftly is excited to leverage this data standard to help transit agencies harness the full potential of their transit data. In the future, agencies will be able to use data in the ODS format to:

  • Adjust pullout times to improve overall on-time performance
  • Optimize non-revenue trip run-times to remove slack
  • Streamline NTD reporting by accounting for deadhead run-times

Swiftly has been a longtime proponent of data standards, including recent collaboration on changes to the GTFS-rt standard. We’re thrilled to continue to partner with pioneering agencies like WETA to explore how the ODS can empower staff to improve transit service.

We’re all ears about ways to apply this standard. Want to use ODS at your agency? Have ideas? Reach out to me at

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