Use of Entry-Only Automatic Fare Collection Data to Estimate Linked Transit Trips in New York City

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - signage/information, land use - planning, technology - geographic information systems, mode - bus, mode - rail, mode - mass transit, mode - subway/metro


Underground railways, Transportation planning, Transit entry-only data, Transit, Subways, Shortest path algorithms, Public transit, Origin and destination, O&D, New York City Transit Authority, New York City Transit, Mass transit, Local transit, Linked trips, Intracity bus transportation, GIS, Geographic information systems, Geocoding, Data mining, Case studies, Bus transit, Boarding and alighting, Automatic fare collection


Many large transit systems use automatic fare collection (AFC) systems. Most AFC systems were designed solely for revenue management, but they contain a wealth of customer use data that can be mined to create inputs to operations planning and demand forecasting models for transportation planning. More detailed information than could ever be collected by any travel survey is potentially available if it is assumed that the transactional data can be processed to produce the desired information. Previous work in this field focused primarily on rail transit, since boardings at fixed stations are easier to locate than boardings of buses, which move around. This paper presents a case study for the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s New York City Transit, a transit system in which a rider swipes a fare card only to enter a station or board a bus. This is the first work to include trips by all transit modes in a system that records the transaction only on rider entry, which is significantly more challenging because all the alighting locations need to be inferred and the bus boarding locations need to be estimated. No location information (from automated vehicle location technology or a Global Positioning System) was available for buses. Software that processes the 7 million–plus daily transactions and that creates a data set of linked transit trips was created. The data set can then be analyzed by using geographic information system-based query software to create reports, maps, origin–destination matrices, load profiles, and new data sets. Subway journeys are assigned by using a schedule-based shortest-path algorithm.