Using smart card and GPS data for policy and planning: The case of Transantiago

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - south america, mode - bus, technology - automatic vehicle monitoring, technology - geographic information systems, technology - passenger information, technology - ticketing systems, planning - service quality


Public transport, Passive data, Automatic vehicle location, Automatic fare collection


The introduction in 2007 of a new public transport system in Santiago, Chile, brought to us an unexpected gift: the availability of Big Data; massive amounts of passive data obtained from technological devices installed to control the operation of buses and to administer the fare collection process. Many other cities in the world have experienced the same, and sooner or later, this is likely to happen everywhere. Seeing this opportunity, many researchers have developed tools to obtain valuable information from the available data. However, the case of Transantiago is particularly advantageous because all buses have GPS devices and the smart card presents an overall 97% penetration rate.

We describe a successful experience of collaboration between academia and the public transport authority to develop tools based on passive data processing. We include a brief description of the Transantiago system and the agreements made to develop the aforementioned tools. We also describe the methods developed to obtain valuable information like public transport trips origin-destination matrices, speed profiles of buses and service quality indicators, among others. Several examples of specific uses of the information for public transport policy and planning in Santiago are presented. The paper concludes with a discussion of what else can be obtained from this data and why we believe that this can change the way we do transport planning.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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