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Public-images-osm logo.svg route_ref
Route reference (number/code) cognizable on public transport stop signs Show/edit corresponding data item.
Group: public transport
Used on these elements
may be used on nodesmay be used on waysshould not be used on areasmay be used on relations
Useful combination
Status: in use

The key 'route_ref' is used on bus stops to list all bus lines that serve this stop. If a stop is served by several bus lines, all services are listed in the tag, separated by semicolon, e.g. route_ref=12;15;X97. The tag is added to the object tagged as highway=bus_stop or public_transport=platform. Currently (2018-03) about 6.5% of all platforms are tagged with their respective routes using this key.

It enumerates all the lines which serve that bus stop. It's data which can easily be gathered/checked during survey or which can be calculated when timetable data is present under a suitable license.

When the routes are not signed on the stop, this can be marked with route_ref:signed=no.

Combination with relations

Please note that there is a certain overlap with bus routes mapped as relations (see Relation:public_transport). It is not necessary to use both schemes for the same bus stop. route_ref=* can easily be added to individual bus stops without knowing the whole route a service takes. It can serve as a basis to add the full route relation later on. If the full route is known, using a relation should be preferred, as it provides more information and can be shown as a route on dedicated maps or can be used in routing engines.

In some localities, one cannot predict the order that bus stops are listed on a sign based on the route numbers themselves; some higher-numbered routes may arbitrarily be more important than lower-numbered routes. In these cases, route_ref=* is the only way to indicate the signposted order at a given stop, since a way does not indicate an intrinsic order to the relations of which it is a member.


It was originally used by NaPTAN/Tag_mappings import, but is now used all over the world. In Belgium, it is used on the bus and tram stops of MIVB/STIB.

Situation in Belgium

It became necessary to use a name spaced approach to enable using the same platform node for stops of different operators/networks.

  • Also, in Belgium, at least, the route_ref tags remain on the stops after the itineraries are added as route relations. Some redundancy doesn't hurt and they can serve a purpose in validation tools.
Belgian operators

Possible tagging errors

If you know places with this tag, verify if it could be tagged with another tag.
Automated edits are strongly discouraged unless you really know what you are doing!

See also

  • route=* - to define a route relation
  • local_ref=* - local reference/local platform number