NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum


I can think of three methods to map bus routes: 1. Copy the routes from a map, for example a map on the bus companies' website. 2. Go outside and look at all bus stops which buses are listed there 3. Take a ride in all bus routes.

As far as I know, we have two reasons to not copy data from other maps: copyright/database right reasons and accuracy.

IMO, an overview of bus lines is not a creative work and is thus not protected by copyright (although the rendering of the map might be copyrighted - but we copy the data, not the rendering). For database rights, there needs to be "a substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the contents of the database". A bus company doesn't invest in obtaining or verifying timetable data, whether an investment is done is presenting a database is not clear to me. So database rights might be an issue with 1 (although this is not clear). The database rights issue seems not to be an issue with method 2.

Methods 1 and 2 might be less accurate (especially outside of Western Europe). Perhaps method 2 might be even more inaccurate than method 1.

Which methods would others consider acceptable?

asked 26 Jun '11, 13:39

Math1985's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 28 Jun '11, 00:24

SomeoneElse's gravatar image

SomeoneElse ♦

Approach number 1 (copying) is really no different from copying anything else to put on the map. All of the reasons for not doing that still apply to bus routes I think.

So we have that same discussion of "Not creative thus not protected by copyright" (in which jurisdiction??) with any and all types of map data, and ultimately the killer reason for not copying is always this: OpenStreetMap is not a project where we experiment with testing legal theories and pushing copyright legalities to their limits. That's not what we do. We go out and we create maps from scratch to avoid all of that

But I did vote this up as a good question, because it's extra frustrating for bus routes isn't it? It seems to scream out for copying from the simplified maps you get with bus timetables. Of course bus companies should be in favour of the routes being added to OpenStreetMap anyway. Perhaps that's a reason to worry about it less, although I'm finding UK bus companies have some pretty mixed up attitudes towards open data.

And what about looking at route numbers written on bus signs? I've always assumed this is OK, in the same way that looking a street names on street signs is (I would certainly hope) not copying. But I haven't really worked out a good technique for patching together bus route relations based on occasional observation of numbers at isolated stops. Seems like it does either require your local knowledge of the route of the bus, or mapping it by actually catching the bus.

permanent link

answered 27 Jun '11, 02:18

Harry%20Wood's gravatar image

Harry Wood
accept rate: 14%

edited 27 Jun '11, 02:20


In Paris most physical bus stops show a map of the bus line. Is there any difference looking at that map VS looking at the map on their website ? That map is also often visible inside the bus itself, should I avoid looking at it if traveling in the bus to map its route ? I think that's pushing things too far. We're not copying their map, we're copying the factual "this bus drives from here to there". And if public-transport destinations is not public-domain, I don't know what is.

(27 Jun '11, 17:00) Vincent de P... ♦

You could get Grandad (or Ma to be PC) with his/her bus pass to take a GPS on some cartographic excursions and show him/her how OSM works. (note we have a free travel for over 60 and those with some health issues that stop them driving in UK)

(28 Jun '11, 07:41) andy mackey

At first I took your first approach: actually taking the buses and taking not of as much details as possible about the stops. It works, but takes forever. When passing by a bus stop on foot or by bicycle, I also added all details adding the lines served by it to route_ref.

For years I've been writing to the company which operates all the lines for the region and the answer was no for a very long time. At the same time it was possible to get a license to access dumps of their database and they shared the data with Google, but a restrictive license had to be signed. It's not entirely clear what they were so afraid of. In this region it's not possible for another company to start competing with them, so that can't be the reason. Recently, with help of a service lobbying for opendata, I did get permission to add the data to OSM. So apparently it’s a good idea to be persistent and not give up. In the mean time I’ve provided them with feedback about stops which are not at the correct location in their DB and they seem to start seeing the advantages of sharing the data with a project like OSM. I don’t have a standard letter to provide, especially as I don’t communicate with them in English. I think it’s important to stress that we strive to have correct data and that there is a commitment to combine/integrate data coming from both upstream and downstream. Maybe it helps to tell them we don’t want to include the coordinates into as they have them (to make sure no references from their geoprovider pass through). We don’t want to do that for our own reasons as well: the stops have to fit among the already existing data. Between the buildings/landuse and the roads for example and on the correct side of the road. If you have obtained permission from them, I have a lot of procedures and scripts to help with the integration (PostGIS and Python):

It’s still work in progress and at the moment it’s more geared at getting the data from upstream into OSM. I’m also planning to create scripts which do quality control later on. Those may be Python scripts which will run inside JOSM (with help of the scripting plugin). Or I will try to run them off line and feed the result to OSMOSE.

It’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on that page, if it interests you.


permanent link

answered 26 Apr '13, 12:29

Polyglot's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

Surely it would be sensible to ask the bus companies (at boss level) can we put your routes on our map. They want customers don't they? Maybe ask them for a list of stop co-ords and route numbers,they must have that already.although I suppose Traveline(UK) would feel threatened.

permanent link

answered 30 Jun '11, 09:40

andy%20mackey's gravatar image

andy mackey
accept rate: 4%

So you think its not allowed to gather information from the schedules published by the bus companies? Does this apply for German law as well? (Looks really strange to me.)

permanent link

answered 24 Apr '13, 12:41

Markus_'s gravatar image

accept rate: 0%


The relevant law is database law. Here is some information on the German situation: However, I think the problem is that it is not only German law that is relevant. By putting data from a database into OpenStreetMap, you give everyone in any country permission to use the data. Therefore, you need to be sure that copying the database is not only legal in Germany, but everywhere on earth. Also, database law is relatively new and the legal consequences are not always clear. The Openstreetmap foundation has decided that they wouldn't like to spend their effort and money on court cases to create clarity (understandable), so they ask contributors to err on the side of caution.

The best strategy probably would be to ask the bus company explicitly for permission. Does anyone have a standard letter for that, by the way?

(24 Apr '13, 13:28) Math-1985

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Markdown Basics

  • *italic* or _italic_
  • **bold** or __bold__
  • link:[text]( "title")
  • image?![alt text](/path/img.jpg "title")
  • numbered list: 1. Foo 2. Bar
  • to add a line break simply add two spaces to where you would like the new line to be.
  • basic HTML tags are also supported

Question tags:


question asked: 26 Jun '11, 13:39

question was seen: 16,994 times

last updated: 02 Mar '20, 23:24

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum