Data Standards FAQ

Civic Data Standards Help Cities and Citizens Speak the Same Language

Civic data standards are common formats governments use to publish information. Standardized data benefits government staff, local businesses, and citizens across the country by making information easier to access, use, and move between applications.

Apps like Google Maps are powered by civic data standards. Beyond the map itself, hundreds of municipal governments agreed to publish information about public transit in the same format–the General Transit Feed Specification. Because of this data standard, countless apps now help people from Portland to Providence find out when the next bus will arrive, and how to stay out of the snow, rain and heat.

What can data standards do for you?

Local Government

Standard formats make the public data governments already collect more valuable. Standardized data can travel to citizens where and when they need it most. Adopting standards also gives governments access to the world of open-source civic apps–often available a little to no cost–that enable their public agencies to improve service delivery and do more with less.

Technologists

When cities across the country format their data in the same way, technologists can build tools that scale across cities at a fraction of the effort and cost. Data standards streamline the process of finding and using data across city agencies. That means that civic apps can come from technologists with talent and drive, not just big companies with cash on hand.

Citizens

Data standards help citizens get the information they need to make the best decisions possible for their families, businesses, and communities. Every day countless citizens make hard decisions about where to live, how to travel, and where to spend their money. With standardized public data, citizens anywhere can receive unprecedented guidance on the decisions they face, helping our cities become fair, efficient, and sustainable.

Current Data Standards

These civic data standards have the Code for America Stamp of Approval. Know of something that should be on this list? Shoot us a note at pn-staff@codeforamerica.org

These civic data standards have the Code for America Stamp of Approval. Know of something that should be on this list? Shoot us a note at pn-staff@codeforamerica.org.

General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS and GTFS-realtime)
Transportation

What it is: A standard format for public transit schedules and associated information. GTFS is for static data, and GTFS-realtime is an extension for real-time, geolocated data.

The background: This widely adopted standard was established in 200X by Google and the Portland Trimet transit agency. Today over 696 cities are using the GTFS format.

Why we love it: Find out how to get from point A to point B using public transit in almost any major city thanks to GTFS-powered transit apps like Google Maps and OpenTripPlanner.

The details: View the GTFS documentation.

Get involved: Check out this list of public GTFS feeds, and join the GTFS mailing lists.

Open311
Issue Reporting

What it is: A standard format and API for citizen reporting of non-emergency civic issues.

The background: Established 2009; widely adopted

Why we love it: Great apps using Open311 like SeeClickFix and Citizens Connect let you easily report problems like graffiti and potholes to your local government – and find out when the issue has been resolved.

The details: View the GeoReport v2 spec.

Get involved:Find out if your city is using the specification, or join the mailing lists.

Local Inspector Value Entry Specification (LIVES)
Public Health

What it is: A standard format for restaurant health inspection data.

The background: In 2012, the City and County of San Francisco partnered with Yelp to author the specification. Adoption is now expanding to other cities like Lexington, KY.

Why we love it: Picking out a San Francisco sushi joint for dinner tonight? This standard lets you check out recent health scores alongside customer reviews on Yelp when making your decision.

The details: View the LIVES spec.

Get involved: http://foodinspectiondata.us/

House Facts Standard
Code Enforcement

What it is: A standard format for residential building inspection data.

The background: Established 2013; emerging adoption

Why we love it: Housing decisions are some of the biggest and most taxing choices citizens face. This standard helps prospective renters and buyers learn about how the building stands in the eyes of local government.

The details: View the House Facts specification document

Get involved: Housefacts.me