I am developing a transit webapp using Google Transit, while referring to documentation, i see two different datasets (trips.txt and routes.txt) but i can't clarify the difference between them.

4 Answers 4


Here's the documentation from Google: https://developers.google.com/transit/gtfs/reference

In this model, a "trip" occurs along a "route". I think the simplest difference can been seen in the fact that a "route" has no directionality, it's just a line along which a transit vehicle travels. So if you look only at the route, you don't know which direction along the line anything is travelling: you need a "trip" to know that.

I guess you could say that a "route" exists on the ground. And a "trip" is what happens when the transit vehicle travels on along the route.

(note I had to use the word "when" in that last sentence... which indicates that a "trip" extends a "route" with some time information)


Transit routes. A route is a group of trips that are displayed to riders as a single service. (The entire route)

GTFS Routes are equivalent to "Lines" in public transportation systems. Routes are defined in the file routes.txt, and are made up of one or more Trips - remember that a Trip occurs at a specific time and so a Route is time independent.

trips (trips.txt) are individual components of routes (routes.txt)

example - there maybe many trips to 1 route




If you are travelling say from Point A to B, then a) Travelling from point A to B makes a TRIP. b) Travelling from point A to B and back to A again makes a ROUTE. The word ROUTE is normally used when you are travelling through intermediate stop points eg from point A through B, C, D, E etc and back to A again.

  • Please use references when possible to verify the content of your answer.
    – MaryBeth
    Jan 4, 2016 at 16:11
  • That's not what the GTFS documentation says. (See @Mapperz's answer) Feb 7, 2016 at 18:25

So, trying to come up with some concrete examples:

There's the '101' bus route; it goes between the Town Centre and the Airport, via the Bus Depot.

At 0450 every morning, the bus leaves the bus depot for the town centre. This is a trip, with only two stops.

Then it heads to the airport via the Bus Station at 0500; this is another trip. And then it returns to town; yet another trip. Each of these trips has three stops.

Some trips might take radically different paths to others -- perhaps a bus that serves a small village with a school takes a detour twice a day into the village to pickup/drop off at the school, bypassing the stops on the main route. That's OK -- those trips will just have different stops listed in stop_times.txt to the more usual type of trip. But it's still called the 246, even when it does these detours -- that's what it means to be a route!

Whilst routes.txt describes the metadata for a route, conceptually a route is mostly an unordered collection of trips with a collective brand; and each those individual trips are mostly a sequence of stops with associated times in stop_times.txt (apart from the metadata in trips.txt).

[Hope that's right, I'm mostly writing this to solidify my own understanding]

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