Potential Uses of Transit Smart Card Registration and Transaction Data to Improve Transit Planning

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

land use - planning, mode - bus, mode - rail


Travel behavior, Transportation planning, Smart cards, Sets, Rail transit, Intracity bus transportation, Integrated circuit cards, Contactless fare cards, Chip cards, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago (Illinois), Bus transit, Automatic fare collection


New automated fare collection systems being implemented on urban rail and bus transit systems offer the potential of tapping a rich source of customer usage data to improve transit planning. This is especially true of transit systems that offer smart cards as a payment option allowing long-term individual travel behaviors to be tracked and analyzed. This paper presents an initial analysis of the access and usage patterns of Chicago Transit Authority, Illinois, smart card holders during September 2004. The types of analyses that can be conducted with smart card registration and transaction data are discussed, the potential difficulties encountered in conducting such analyses are described, and recommendations are offered for improvement and expansion of the use of smart card data sets. The findings reported focus on walking access distances, frequency and consistency of daily travel patterns, and variability of smart card customer behaviors by residential area.