We wanted to let you know about the availability of data that may be helpful to your users: realtime MBTA shuttle bus locations. Sometimes we need to replace subway service with shuttle buses. Deploying these shuttle buses can either be planned (for example, if we have to work on improving our track or signal infrastructure) or unplanned (for example, if there is a fallen tree that is obstructing the tracks). Shuttles are not a good experience for our riders, and our research has shown that the thing that riders want most in this circumstance is to know when the next shuttle bus will arrive.
While we aren’t currently able to provide you with real time arrival predictions for shuttle buses, we have made the real time location of shuttle buses available through our API. This data can be used to show riders the real time locations of shuttle buses on a map. Each shuttle that replaces rail service is associated with the applicable line (for example, a shuttle between Park St and Kendall/MIT would be associated with the Red Line). We keep our GTFS updated with data on common and upcoming shuttles, so at a given point in time, there may be multiple shuttle routes associated with a specific line. To pull data on all shuttle buses that are providing service for a given line, look for routes on a line with a ‘route_desc’ of ‘Rail Replacement Bus’ (click here to view our documentation about lines and how we use them to group relatedsimilar routes).
A few things that we want to note:
The shuttle data that we provide is currently only available for MBTA-operated shuttle buses. We sometimes hire private companies to run and manage our shuttle buses, and as of right now, we don’t have a way to get real time location data from their vehicles.
Shuttle routes are “unlisted”, so in the V3 API they will not appear in any requests to the `/routes` endpoint. Shuttle route IDs are only discoverable via the associated `routes` of a rail Line (see above documentation on Lines).
Due to an operational constraint we hope to address in the future, shuttle buses replacing service on the Mattapan line will use the route ID `Shuttle-Generic-Green`, which is associated with the Green Line rather than the Mattapan Line.
While we’re on the topic of shuttle buses, we thought we would also let you know about static shuttle information that we already have live in the API/GTFS: shuttle route, shape, and stop date/time information for pretty much all of our planned shuttles. Taken together with shuttle locations, this will allow developers to show riders the location of shuttle buses moving along a shuttle route in real time. Currently all shuttle vehicles use generic shuttle route IDs, rather than the disruption-specific route IDs that the shapes, trips, etc. are associated with, so unfortunately it’s not yet possible to link the vehicle data to a specific shape or trip. That said, we are looking for ways to address this disconnect in the future.
If you have any ideas or feature requests related to our data (shuttle-related or not), please let us know.