Perceived and Actual Wait Time Measurement at Transit Stops Using Bluetooth

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, place - north america, ridership - perceptions, technology - geographic information systems, technology - passenger information


transit, travel wait time, Bluetooth


In order to attract more choice riders, transit service must not only have a high level of service in terms of frequency and travel time but also must be reliable. One inexpensive way to combat the perception of unreliability from the user perspective is real-time transit information. The OneBusAway transit traveler information system provides real-time next bus countdown information for riders of King County Metro via website, telephone, text-messaging, and smart phone applications. Although previous studies have looked at traveler response to real-time information, few have addressed real-time information via devices other than public display signs. Riders using real-time information do not perceive their wait time to be longer than their measured wait time. A model to predict the perceived wait time of bus riders was developed, with significant variables that include the measured wait time, an indicator variable for real-time information, an indicator variable for PM peak period, the bus frequency in buses per hour, and a self-reported typical aggravation level. Unfortunately, the actual wait time data is particularly hard to collect, often requiring extensive manual work. Increasing popularity of mobile devices and the inter-device communication protocols that they rely on have become attractive data sources for vehicle traffic analysis purposes, showing great potential. However, the use of this data source for transit purposes remains relatively unexplored. For the second study in this report, an exploratory study into automated passenger wait time data collection is conducted and evaluated. Overall, low-resolution wait time data can be obtained using Bluetooth sensors, revealing basic trends such as average wait times and, more interestingly, the potential impact of real-time information availability via mobile devices.


Permission to link to this report has been given by Professor G Scott Rutherford, copyright remains with them.