MDS, GBFS, and how cities can ask for data from micromobility providers

Charlie Bailey

Customer Success Manager

Scooter riders and pedestrians along Oakland’s Lake Merritt

Mobility Data Specification (MDS)

MDS is an Application Programming Interface (API) for transmitting anonymous information about vehicles and trips from a mobility company to a city. The standard consists of two distinct efforts: MDS Agency API and MDS Provider API. This article focuses on the MDS Provider API.

Who is this for?

Mobility providers and the public agencies charged with managing them.

How is it delivered?

Through an API, a method often implemented by IT departments for computers to talk to each other in over the internet. Note: providers using MDS must include a GBFS feed (see below) in the data they send.

What does it describe?

  • Mobility vehicle trips and their routes
  • Location and status (e.g. “available,” “in use,” or “out of service”) of each vehicle

Why should I require it?

  • It standardizes the process and format of how data will be shared with the city
  • It provides important historical data for enforcement and planning purposes
  • It allows regulators to view data from and enforce restrictions with multiple vendors at once
  • Numerous cities have already required it as part of their micromobility data sharing requirements for enforcement, management, and planning purposes

General Bikeshare Feed Specification (GBFS)

GBFS is a standard for bikeshare providers to describe the status of their systems to customers.

Who is this for?

Anyone (e.g., a customer or regulator) who wants to know real-time shared bicycle availability.

How is it delivered?

Like MDS, through an API, often implemented by an IT department.

What does it describe?

  • Basic bikeshare system information, such as location, operating hours, and company contact information
  • Bikeshare docks (if present) and their capacity/utilization
  • Bike locations and availability (if dockless)

What doesn’t it describe?

  • Historical bikeshare trips or their routes, a critical need for helping plan future infrastructure or understanding trends in micromobility activity

Example Mobility Data Policy using MDS

Based on our review of various data policies, the following language can be used in city requirements and regulations pertaining to micromobility. This best practice language was adapted from the cities of Providence, RI, Santa Monica, CA and San Jose, CA. We recommend MDS, as it fulfills stated city needs and builds upon the already well-established GBFS standard.

  • In advance of permit issuance, each operator must have an application program interface (API) or other automated mechanism that allows their services to be integrated into third-party mobility applications so that users can see data about and procure services through third-party Mobility as a Service application.
  • Data for all device types must be provided to the City, and partners, in the latest General Bikeshare Feed Specification (GBFS) and Provider Mobility Data Specification (MDS) format versions, or some other format as specified by the City on its website, each through an API. The City maintains links to the full specification and version of these required data formats on the City’s webpage. Providers must comply within 60 days of a new version release.
  • GBFS must be made available to the public through the permittee’s website. The MDS feed must be available to the city and contracted city partners through direct API access for the explicit purpose of program management. As such, these feeds must be consumable by third-party software.
  • Permittee must maintain a dashboard for the City to use for program monitoring and compliance that displays MDS data.
  • All data use rights shall be maintained for at least three years after the date when permittee ceases operation in a city. The permittee shall maintain feeds and API access for historical data for at least one year after the cessation of operation or revocation of their permit.
  • Personally-identifiable information shall not be shared with the City or any other entity; permittee shall ensure the privacy of its users.
  • Non-GBFS data consumed through the API by City specified third-party software providers shall not be publicly available without consent from the permittee.
  • The City may, in its sole discretion, release subsequent versions and/or updated versions of the Specification and require operator to use the most current version by releasing an automatic update and/or disabling support for the previous version.
  • Data required beyond the GBFS and MDS specifications include [placeholder for additional city data needs]

Draft Data Licensing Guide

Every city is different, and providers can approach a city with their own terms at any time. We created this draft Guide to mobility data licensing for cities to help cities navigate these situations on a case-by-case basis, as they arise.

Want to learn more?

If you’re interested in learning how other cities are structuring policies around micromobility, visit our Policy Page or contact our team at [email protected] and we’d be happy to share more of our findings or go into more detail on this topic.