GBFS & Open Data

The General Bikeshare Feed Specification, known as GBFS, is the open data standard for shared micromobility. GBFS makes real-time data feeds in a uniform format publicly available online, with an emphasis on findability.

About GBFS

Under NABSA’s leadership, the General Bikeshare Feed Specification (GBFS) Version 1 was developed by a team of bikeshare system owners and operators, application developers, and technology vendors. Over 601 bikeshare and scooter systems worldwide have adopted the GBFS open data standard since its release in November 2015.

In 2019, NABSA selected MobilityData to become the technical steward for the GBFS community, which involved improving the specification and its governance to meet evolving industry needs. NABSA and MobilityData continue to partner on the effort. GBFS Version 2.0 was released in March 2020. Version 2.1-RC2, which supports dockless and hybrid systems and more extensive pricing representation, was released in October 2020. The latest version, version 2.2, was released in April 2021.

Modeled after the widely used General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), GBFS defines a common format to share the real-time status of a shared mobility system. The purpose of a data specification is to enable the exchange of information between multiple parties in a way that ensures that all parties agree on what the information represents. You can think of it like a dictionary, where each term has a definition and a set of rules for how it can be used. The GBFS format allows mobility data to be used by a range of software applications for trip planning, research, analysis, visualization and regulation. This publicly available data allows regulators, researchers and community members to gain insights that have helped municipalities meet their goals.

GBFS in use on the Transit app and in Google Maps.

How is GBFS different from MDS?

Since the introduction of the Mobility Data Specification in 2018, questions have arisen about the difference between the two specifications. MDS and GBFS are distinct specifications that are intended for different purposes. GBFS is primarily intended to be publicly available in the service of aiding traveler trip-planning, while the primary function of MDS is for non-public use in regulation by cities and other agencies. Unlike GBFS real-time feeds, which represent the system’s current state, MDS also includes historical trip and vehicle status information, which contains sensitive location data and is only available through specifically authorized channels. To be considered fully compliant with MDS, operators are required, per the specification, to also publish a public GBFS feed.

Data Good Practices for Municipalities:

Understanding the General Bikeshare Feed Specification (GBFS)

In 2019, NABSA partnered with MobilityData to convene the first annual GBFS Developers Workshop. One of the many outcomes from this event was an identified need for municipal staff to have more guidance about what GBFS is and how to best engage with it. This need, coupled with questions NABSA receives from municipal shared micromobility members and stakeholders, provided the impetus and foundational input that led to the year-long development of our new guidance document, Data Good Practices for Municipalities: Understanding the General Bikeshare Feed Specification.

Recommendations in the document include:

– Policies should be specific in their requirements and avoid generalization. Ensure that the requirements of your data policy support your specific policy goals and use cases, requiring optional fields and files as necessary.

– Require public GBFS feeds that do not require authentication.

– Post the URL for each operator’s gbfs.json file on the municipality’s website or open data portal.

– Require that operators license GBFS data using a permissive license that places minimal restrictions on usage to ensure that more apps, developers, researchers, and advocates can use GBFS data without onerous restrictions. Encourage the use of standard open-source data licenses, such as the options found here.

– Require that operators include their GBFS feed information in the GBFS systems.csv file in the NABSA Github repository.

– Require rotation of bike_id after every trip in publicly published GBFS datasets.

– Participate in GBFS governance and enhancement directly or through relationships with other municipalities, industry groups, or organizations that participate in governance and align with your municipality’s interests.

– Do not request or require data outside the scope of the GBFS specification unless a prior arrangement has been made with the operator.

– Care should be taken when developing policies that rely on location data. Location data from GPS, cellular and Wi-Fi signals are subject to interference resulting in accuracy levels in the tens of meters or greater. GBFS location data can provide valuable information for users, as well as planning and analysis purposes. However, accuracy levels may make it unsuitable for certain activities, such as enforcing vehicle parking violations.

– Be specific and explicit in policy and communications about which version is required, and work with your providers on the timeline to implement version changes.

Learn More about GBFS

2021 GBFS Enhancements and Good Practice Webinar

2020 GBFS Enhancements and Good Practice Webinar

Bikeshare Data Sharing Webinar

This webinar explored how open data can make bikeshare services more transparent, effective and user-friendly.  We discussed how open data requirements can both increase ridership and aid cities in monitoring and policy enforcement.

This webinar requires a NABSA Member Center Account. Not a NABSA member? Consider joining to gain access to this and hundreds of other resources. Learn more about NABSA membership.

View the Webinar

MDS and Emerging Dockless Data Standardization Webinar

This webinar explains what MDS is, why it was created, and how it compliments the GBFS standard. Two cities at the forefront of dockless data collection told members how they are doing it, and what’s being done about user privacy.

This webinar requires a NABSA Member Center Account. Not a NABSA member? Consider joining to gain access to this and hundreds of other resources. Learn more about NABSA membership.

View the Webinar