How do users choose their routes in public transport? The effect of individual profile and contextual factors

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - urban, ridership - attitudes, ridership - behaviour, planning - methods


Decision-making, Route-planning, Transportation, User profiles


The aim of the present study was to better understand how public transport users make their choice of route, in order to favor the use of public transport (henceforth PT) in large cities. Based on decision-making theories, a classical choice paradigm (Slovic, 1975), and recent findings in psychology (Chowdhury & Ceder, 2013; Grison et al., 2016) we developed a new method to investigate the effect of contextual and individual factors on PT route choices. We proposed to sixty PT users realistic forced choices between two PT routes that differed in affective (level of physical comfort) and instrumental (number of transport modes) attributes. We also varied the context of the decision (long or short route; route to go to work, to a leisure activity, etc.), and we recorded various individual characteristics (age, sex, attitude towards PT, habits, etc.). Our results highlight that: the comfort of the route is preferred to the number of transport modes, especially for long trips; the choice of the comfortable alternative or the one with only one transport mode depends on user characteristics; the length of the trip and habits are the most important variables in the decision, but attitudes also seem to play a major role. Our study furthers current knowledge about the psychological process of PT route choice in light with multi-attribute choices theories, and provides new insights that can contribute to improving current large city route-planning aids.


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


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