Glossary of Key Terms

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): 1990 federal legislation that prohibits discrimination based on disability status. Title II requires providers of fixed-route transit to offer paratransit services for people with disabilities.

Arrival predictions: Real-time transit vehicle locations that estimate arrival times either through platform monitors or web-based applications.

Automated passenger counter (APC): In-vehicle device that records passenger boarding and alighting volumes.

Back office: The servers and software that support fare collection by automating fare policies, validation, and more.

Bank card: A bank-issued credit, debit, or prepaid card.

Computer-Aided Dispatch/Automatic Vehicle Location (CAD/AVL): Communication system that sends transit vehicle location information to back-office software to assist in scheduling, incident response, and other planning functions.

Cal eProcure (see also DGS): Online portal designed to improve the procurement experience in the State of California. eProcure is where those wishing to search for and view available contracts can do so.

California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP): Series of initiatives to ensure that public transit in California leverages modern industry standards and specifications for seamless journey planning and fare payment. With funding from the California Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), Cal-ITP is a statewide initiative designed to unify transit in California with a common fare payment system, real-time data standard, and seamless verification of reduced-fare eligibility.

California Air Resources Board (CARB): State agency charged with protecting the public from the harmful effects of air pollution and developing programs and actions to fight climate change. (See CARB’s Innovative Clean Transit program.)

California Department of General Service (DGS): The State’s “business manager” that handles procurement and acquisition services and negotiates contracts, including Leveraged Procurement Agreements (LPAs) and Master Agreements

California Division of Rail and Mass Transportation (DRMT): A Caltrans bureau whose mission is to provide measurable improvements to California’s integrated and sustainable public transportation system. DRMT has the following primary functions:

  • Statewide transit and passenger rail network management
  • Grant administration of federal and state transit and rail discretionary and formula funds
  • Procurement support for rail
  • Technical services for transit and rail

California State Rail Plan (CSRP): A strategic plan with operating and capital investment strategies that will lead to a coordinated, statewide travel system. The CSRP is an important element in the comprehensive planning and analysis of statewide transportation investment strategies detailed in the California Transportation Plan 2040 (CTP 2040)

California State Transportation Agency (CALSTA): Cabinet-level state agency whose mission is to develop and coordinate the policies and programs of the state’s transportation entities to achieve California’s mobility, safety, and air quality objectives from its transportation system. Caltrans sits under CalSTA authority. The head of CalSTA is the Secretary of Transportation of the State of California.

Caltrans: California’s department of transportation and the lead agency for Cal-ITP. Caltrans manages more than 50,000 miles of California’s highway and freeway lanes, provides intercity rail services, permits more than 400 public-use airports and special-use hospital heliports, and works with local agencies to carry out its mission of providing a safe, sustainable, integrated, and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability.

Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA): Partnership among six Northern California transit agencies in an eight-county service area, which shares the administration and management of the Capitol Corridor (a 170-mile intercity rail service to 18 stations in the following counties: Placer, Sacramento, Yolo, Solano, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Francisco, and Santa Clara). Average daily ridership is less than 5K. CCJPA is managed by Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) (average daily ridership about 410K).

cEMV: Contactless EMV.

Closed-loop payment: A form of payment, like a prepaid gift card or transit fare card (e.g., Clipper), that is only accepted by one merchant, transit provider, or a small group of providers. This stands in contrast to [open-loop payments], which are accepted by most merchants or providers that accept non-cash payments (anywhere in the world that Visa and Mastercard are accepted.) 

Contactless fare collection: Through use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) or near-field communication (NFC) technology, a fare collection system that allows users to securely complete transactions by tapping a fare validator with a contactless credit, debit, or prepaid card or smart device.

Cooperative agreement: A method of procurement conducted by, or on behalf of, one or more Public Procurement Units. Cooperative agreements allow public agencies with proper legal authority to purchase goods or services by relying on another public agency’s competitive procurement - saving time and money.

Data validators: People and, likely soon, software that assess the quality of GTFS data.

Demand-responsive taxi: A special form of DRT operated through taxicab providers. 

Demand-responsive transit (DRT): A non-fixed-route transportation system that dispatches trips to riders who have made a direct request to the operator for pickup. DR fleets are typically composed of passenger cars, vans, or small buses.  

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program: Program administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation designed to level the playing field for individuals from historically socially or economically disadvantaged populations. Specifically, the DBE program requires that 10% of the budgets of federally funded projects are allocated toward businesses owned by women and people of color.

EMV: Global standard for contactless payment cards and terminals. EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa, the three companies that originated the standard. The standard is administered by EMVCo and its six member organizations: American Express, Discover, JCB, Mastercard, UnionPay, and Visa.

Encryption: The process of converting information from a readable format into an indecipherable code such that it may only be viewed by authorized parties.

EPAY: The State of California’s Leveraged Procurement Agreements for payment-processing service. Negotiated by the Department of General Service (DGS), EPAY is available to all local agencies in California, including transit providers, to purchase payment processing from the available vendors: Elavon and FiServ.

Fare calculation software: Software that calculates the correct fare for each trip based on the transit provider’s fare policy, e.g,. distance traveled, reduced-fare eligibility, and number of trips completed per day/week/month (for fare capping).

Fare capping: A type of fare policy that allows a rider to pay-as-you-go and limits the maximum amount a rider will pay to the cost set by the transit provider—say, of an unlimited-ride pass (daily, weekly, or monthly). Once a rider hits the price of that maximum, they will no longer be charged for additional trips during that time period.

Fare payment method: The media riders use to pay their transit fare. Fare payment methods can include cash, tokens, transit fare cards, bank cards (credit, debit, or prepaid), or smart devices.

Fare revenue: Income received directly from passengers, or indirectly from companies or institutions purchasing transit for their employees, for transportation services, paid either in cash, bank card, or prepaid tickets, passes, etc.

Fare structure: The full set of possible fares that a transit system charges. Fare structures can be flat, distance- or zone-based, discounted (older adult, student, veteran, etc.), unlimited-ride (daily/weekly/monthly), and other characteristics that impact the fares for individual trips. Fare structure is the manifestation of a transit provider’s fare policy.

Fare validator: Located on a transit vehicle or platform or in a station or fare gate, the NFC-enabled device that reads and validates riders’ contactless payment methods. In retail establishments, a validator is known as a Point of Sale (POS) terminal. 

Federal Transit Administration (FTA): Federal agency that provides financial and technical assistance to local public transit systems, oversees safety measures, and helps develop next-generation technology research. The FTA is housed within the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).

FTA Formula Grants for Rural Areas: Federal program that provides capital, planning, and operating assistance to states to support public transportation in rural areas with populations of less than 50,000, where many residents often rely on public transit to reach their destinations. The program also provides funding for state and national training and technical assistance through the National Rural Transportation Assistance Program (Source: Federal Transit Administration)

FTA State of Good Repair (SGR) Grants: Federal program that provides capital assistance for maintenance, replacement, and rehabilitation projects of high-intensity fixed guideway and bus systems to help transit agencies maintain assets in a state of good repair. Additionally, SGR grants are eligible for developing and implementing Transit Asset Management plans.

General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS): Common format for public transit providers to publish data about their transit services. Transit providers publish their schedules, base price, and certain geospatial data in this open standard so that third parties and mapping applications native to mobile phones can build a variety of applications, including trip planning software, for transit riders. GTFS is categorized into two different typologies:

  • GTFS Schedule dataset: Schedules, fares, and fixed geographic information stored as a zipped file of .txt files.
  • GTFS Realtime (GTFS-RT): Vehicle positioning, stop-based arrival times, service advisories.

GTFS is referred to as an “extensible” format. This means that GTFS was intended to accommodate future growth, for example through new functions, or through modifications of existing functionality. This leads to:

GTFS extensions under development:

  • GTFS-Fares: Components of GTFS Schedule which describe transit fare information. The version under consideration for adoption in 2021 is “GTFS-Fares v2”.
  • GTFS-Flex: Describes demand-responsive transit operations and coverage.
  • GTFS-Pathways: Components of GTFS Schedule that describe how passengers can move between transit vehicles through stairs, fare gates, and other infrastructure.
  • GTFS-Ride: A GTFS extension proposed by Oregon DOT and Oregon State University for describing ridership data at the origin-destination/route/trip/stop level.
  • GTFS-Vehicles: Extension to GTFS Schedule, which describes vehicle attributes including how passengers can interact with their vehicles, step-free access, bicycle storage, and other accommodations.

GTFS Realtime components:

  • Trip updates: A component of GTFS-RT that describes upcoming arrivals per stop.
  • Vehicle positions: A component of GTFS-RT that describes where vehicles are in real time.
    • OccupancyStatus: Optional field within the vehicle positions GTFS-RT format that describes, categorically, how crowded a specific vehicle is in real time. For example: many seats available, some seats available.
  • Alerts: A component of GTFS-RT that describes passenger alerts at various levels.

Leveraged Procurement Agreement (LPA): Offered by California’s Department of General Services (DGS) Procurement Division, a law that allows entities—such as state, city, county, district, or other local governmental bodies—to leverage the state’s buying power and purchase directly from suppliers through existing contracts and agreements, without further competitive bidding.

Local Partnership Program (LPP): Created by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. Its primary objective is to provide funding to counties, cities, districts, and regional transportation agencies in which voters have approved fees or taxes dedicated solely to transportation improvements or that have imposed fees, including uniform developer fees, dedicated solely to transportation improvements.

Master Service Agreements: Contracts established by the Department of General Services and available to any eligible agency that expends public funds. These types of agreements simplify the purchasing process for the end user.

Mobile ticketing: Purchase of transit products through a smartphone, typically through a ticketing app run by either a transit provider or a third party. 

Mobile wallet: An application built into most new smart devices that stores bank card information, allowing users to tap to pay, or to pay electronically. The most common mobile wallets include Apple Pay (iPhone), Google Pay (Android), and Samsung Pay (Samsung phones). Fitbit and Garmin devices also have built-in mobile wallets.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS): The integration of numerous modes of transportation into one service that typically allows users to plan, book, and pay in one place.

Mobility on Demand (MOD): Transportation services that can be requested in real time. MOD services include rideshare (Uber, Lyft), microtransit like bike/scooter share and vans, and courier services.

Multimodal: Referring to a network or a specific trip that incorporates more than one mode of transportation.

National Transit Database (NTD): Created by Congress and housed within the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the NTD is the nation’s primary source for data and statistics for American public transit systems. Any agency receiving FTA grant funding is required to submit data to the NTD, which Congress uses to apportion funding each year.

Near-field communication (NFC): Short-range, wireless technology that enables communication between two NFC-enabled devices when held close to one another. Contactless payment cards, smartphones, point-of-sale terminals, and transit fare validators are all equipped with NFC chips, enabling users to tap to pay.

Open-loop payment: A form of payment that, like credit and debit cards, is accepted by most merchants who accept non-cash payments directly for their products and services. This stands in contrast to closed-loop payments, which, like a gift card, or a local or regional fare card (e.g., Clipper), are only accepted by one provider or small group of providers.

Payment processor: Back-end service that transmits authorization and settlement services from riders’ bank cards and smart devices to a transit provider’s bank. 

Public procurement: The processes involved in purchasing goods or services by a government agency. Procurement processes can require a substantial portion of an agency’s resources to manage. Comprehensively, procurement can involve purchase planning, standards, specifications, determination, supplier research, selection, financing, price negotiation, and inventory control. Competitive bidding is most often required by government, along with additional requirements.

Public transit agency: Publicly funded entity that plans transit service. Several transit operators may provide transit service under one agency.

Public transit operator: A public or private entity responsible for the day-to-day operations of transit service. Both large agencies and small private companies can be transit operators.

Public transit provider: Any provider of transit services (includes transit operators and transit agencies). 

Real-time data: Streaming live data that identifies where transit vehicles are. This is a general term and can refer to any format.

Small Business/Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises (SB/DVBE): Administered by California’s Office of Small Business and DVBE Services (OSDS), a certification program that qualifies small businesses and those owned by disabled veterans to meet participation goals in state-funded contracts.

Stable URL: A URL that is constant and does not change.

State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP): Multi-year capital improvement program of transportation projects on and off the State Highway System, funded with revenues from the Transportation Investment Fund and other funding sources.

Title VI: The section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives federal funds or other federal financial assistance.

Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP): Provides grants from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) to fund transformative capital improvements that will modernize California’s intercity, commuter, and urban rail systems and bus and ferry transit systems to significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, vehicle miles traveled, and congestion.

Transit fare card: Closed-loop reloadable fare payment cards, like Clipper in the San Francisco Bay Area and TAP in Los Angeles.

Unlinked passenger trips: The total number of passenger boardings on transit vehicles, regardless of whether a boarding constitutes the start of a trip or a transfer. UPT typically measures overall transit utilization.

Vehicles operating at maximum service (VOMS): The number of revenue vehicles operated during peak service requirements.