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Perspective

Who Owns Transit Data?

Most U.S. cities share their transit information freely, which helps trip-planning services and boosts ridership. But most German cities don’t. Should they?
German commuters await a train in 2011. Only three cities in Germany—Berlin, Mannheim, and Ulm—have opened their transit data up to third-party developers.
German commuters await a train in 2011. Only three cities in Germany—Berlin, Mannheim, and Ulm—have opened their transit data up to third-party developers.Reuters

As the hometown of Daimler and Porsche, the German city of Stuttgart has a powerful car culture. The city also has—perhaps unsurprisingly—an acute problem with air pollution. Last year the air quality in Stuttgart was so bad that the mayor implored residents to leave their cars at home and use the city’s many transit options, which include subways, commuter trains, streetcars, and buses.

Unfortunately, residents could not turn to many of the technology solutions that American commuters might use when plotting their trip on public transport, such as Apple Maps, Bing Maps, or a startup like CityMapper. None of those are available in Stuttgart—or in almost any other German city.