Transit Information Utilization during an Extreme Weather Event: An Analysis of Smartphone App Data

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - urban, place - north america, technology - intelligent transport systems


Extreme weather events, real-time transit, shared mobility, Transit app


Extreme weather events such as heavy snow can severely disrupt urban transportation systems. When this occurs, travelers often seek information about the status of transportation services. This study aims to assess information utilization during an extreme weather event by analyzing data from a smartphone application (“app”) called Transit, which provides real-time transit and shared mobility information in many cities. This research focuses on a snowstorm that hit the northeastern United States in January 2016 and severely disrupted transit and shared mobility services. An analysis of Transit app data is conducted in four parts for New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. First, hourly app utilization during the snowstorm was compared with mean hourly app utilization prior to the storm. Second, the rate of app usage was calculated by dividing hourly utilization during the storm by the mean hourly volume before the storm. Third, an ordinary least squares regression model of hourly app usage was estimated for each city. Last, a feature within the app used to request Uber vehicles was examined. The results of the first three analyses reveal that overall app usage decreased during the snowstorm in all three cities; after the storm, New York experienced a significant increase in overall app use during the first Monday commuting period. The analysis of Uber data reveals that app users continued to search for ridehailing services during the snowstorm, despite travel bans. These findings are important for transportation operators and app developers to understand how travelers use information during extreme weather events.


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