Isolating high-priority metro and feeder bus transfers using smart card data

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - subway/metro, mode - bus, place - asia, place - urban, technology - passenger information, infrastructure - interchange/transfer, planning - service improvement


Smart card, Public transit, China, Transfer


Fixed-rail metro (or ‘subway’) infrastructure is generally unable to provide access to all parts of the city grid. Consequently, feeder bus lines are an integral component of urban mass transit systems. While passengers prefer a seamless transfer between these two distinct transportation services, each service’s operations are subject to a different set of factors that contribute to metro-bus transfer delay. Previous attempts to understand transfer delay were limited by the availability of tools to measure the time and cost associated with passengers’ transfer experience. This paper uses data from smart card systems, an emerging technology that automatically collects passenger trip data, to understand transfer delay. The primary objective of this study is to use smart card data to derive a reproducible methodology that isolates high priority transfer points between the metro system and its feeder-bus systems. The paper outlines a methodology to identify transfer transactions in the smart card dataset, estimate bus headways without the aid of geographic location information, estimate three components of the total transfer time (walking time, waiting time, and delay time), and isolate high-priority transfer pairs. The paper uses smart card data from Nanjing, China as a case study. The results isolate eight high priority metro-bus transfer pairs in the Nanjing metro system and finally, offers several targeted measures to improve transfer efficiency.


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