GTFS/API: Canonical trips and track-based CR schedules

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Developer at MBTA

May 16, 2023, 7:24:44 PM5/16/23
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Dear developers,

We would like to announce two exciting changes that will be coming to the MBTA's GTFS-static and v3 API data beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, May 17th, 2023.

Track-based Commuter Rail scheduled stop times

For multi-track stations excluding South Station and North Station, most scheduled stop times for Commuter Rail will now begin to be assigned to a track-specific stop ID, rather than the generic/track-less stop ID, within a station.

This change will affect service scheduled to run beginning on Monday, May 22nd, the first day of the new Spring/Summer Commuter Rail schedule, and will be seen in both GTFS-static and the v3 API. Service scheduled through May 21st will not be affected by this change.

For example, all trains stopping at Boston Landing would, until now, use the schedule stop ID WML-0035. With this change, trains will now use either WML-0035-01 or WML-0035-02. You may reference each stop’s existing platform code and name properties to obtain human-readable labels for the different tracks within a station.

We do plan on providing real-time track assignments/changes to outlying stations in the coming weeks that will allow data users to flag if a train’s actual track will differ from the scheduled track. This information will be provided in live predictions in the same way that track assignments are already displayed at North Station, South Station, Back Bay, Ruggles.

A sample GTFS-static feed containing these changes can be found at this link.

Canonical service, route patterns, and trips

The schedule data will now include, for selected rail routes, extra trips that will represent how the normal or "canonical" route appears in a given direction. These trips will include stations that are temporarily closed for construction, such as South Attleboro. The canonical trips will not be active on any date, but are to be used merely for reference and comparison purposes against actual, scheduled trips, using the several new fields and values for route patterns and services.

Several applications of these new data include being able to tie alerts for temporarily-closed stations to a specific route, and/or to indicate when a Commuter Rail train is stopped at an "unusual" platform (for instance, a Boston-bound train stopping on which is typically the outbound track), given a station and the train's direction of travel.

At the initial launch on May 17th, canonical route patterns and trips will be available for all Commuter Rail routes and selected subway routes. Coverage for the remaining subway routes will be added in the near term.

For GTFS-static, the specification additions can be referenced at For the v3 API, the corresponding fields and values can be referenced in the existing documentation, specifically within the RoutePattern and Service model definitions.

A sample GTFS-static feed containing these changes can be found at this link.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or experience any issues with these changes to our data.

Developer @ MBTA
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