How many times have you used Google Maps to find your way to a place using public transportation? If you live in a big city I guess this will be happening really often. But have you ever wondered how Google Maps is getting this information from the public transportation providers? Well, since last year I couldn’t care less about this, till I had the chance to find out the whole story behind it.
It was May of 2013 when RATP, the company running the Parisian metro, organised a big event and a hackathon (#opendatalab) to celebrate the release of the data for its lines. It didn’t seem very attractive but it was supposed to have free pizza so I was totally in. So me, and some awesome people from my team at work, registered to take part. The day of the hackathon started really tough for me. All the presentations were in French and my French level back then was at bonjour level. However, the presentations were full of links and links are universal. I started typing and exploring what these guys were trying to say. Et voilà! In a couple of minutes I was discovering the core of the open data format for public transportation, the GTFS feeds. That was the way that Google Maps (along with anybody else) was getting all the information.