The cost to implement a multimodal trip planner can range from $138,000 to more than $4 million depending on the need to develop custom software and consolidate data feeds. Open source software and data feeds provided by ISPs can decrease costs.

Evaluation of a Multimodal Trip Planning System (MMTPS) in Northeastern Illinois

May 2011
Chicago; Illinois; United States

Summary Information

This project evaluated the deployment of a multimodal trip planning system (MMTPS) in the Chicago area of Northeastern Illinois. The MMTPS was envisioned as an online traveler information tool designed to generate separate travel itineraries for driving only, transit only, and drive-to-transit traveler information to enable users to review alternate travel itineraries and comparative relative costs and travel savings.
The Chicago Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) elected to use a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) MMTPS solution ( which was procured, customized, and made available to the public in April 2009. The U.S. DOT evaluated technical and institutional issues associated with the deployment, and collected information on the overall system costs.

As shown in the table below, approximately 96 percent of the implementation costs were incurred in the development contract.

MMTPS Expense ItemCost
Development contract + trip planning engine procurement $4,000,000
Focus group research $39,300
Initial user research study (performed prior to designing system) $100,500
Search engine optimization (SEO) $48,000

In another example, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in the San Francisco Bay Area estimated that the cost to develop its multimodal trip planner, including licensing, development, and rollout budget was approximately $2 million, including six months of maintenance.

Researchers noted that the data development work adds significant expense. If agencies already have consolidated standardized databases and access to data feeds as part of the project, their up front implementation costs will be much less. For example, in Oregon, the TriMet system used OpenTripPlanner and open source product to limit the amount of resource intensive development required to develop database tools required for the trip planner website. Their initial investment was $69,000 for developer time and $69,000 for the routing engine and interface.

Before the availability of third party data feeds and open source developer tools, individual agencies had to create or procure trip planners at great expense which was only feasible for some larger transit agencies. With the increasing availability of traveler information from providers such as Bing and Google the cost of trip planning services has continued to decrease. However, there are still some costs associated with developing and maintaining static data feeds and regional data feeds by transit authorities. Using these services generally requires an investment in developing a General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) compliant data feed. Transit agencies have estimated that the labor required to develop a GTFS compliant feed can range from 12 hours to two person months depending on the quality of existing databases and the compatibility of the operations scheduling software. Regional systems that have a variety of feeds to consolidate are generally the most expensive. One state DOT interviewed estimated that GTFS data can cost $325 per agency, $7.50 per stop, and $450 per route (depending on the complexity of the fare collection system, difficulty in locating stops, and other complexities). Annual maintenance was calculated at 35 percent of the creation cost plus $300 per agency.

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Multimodal Trip Planner System Final Evaluation Report

Author: Biernbaum, Lee; Lydia Rainville; and Arlen Spiro

Published By: U.S. DOT Federal Transit Administration

Source Date: May 2011

Other Reference Number: Report No. FTA-MA-ITS-2011.1


System Cost

Multimodal trip planning service (develop custom software and data feeds): $4,187,800.
Multimodal trip planning service (use of open source software and pre-existing data feeds): $138,000.


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Cost ID: 2011-00228