Assessing the Evolution of Transit User Behavior from Smart Card Data

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, mode - bus, technology - passenger information, technology - ticketing systems, ridership - behaviour, ridership - demand, ridership - modelling, planning - methods


smart card data, travel patterns, transit demand forecasting models


There is a huge potential for exploiting information centered on individual transit users’ behavior through longitudinal smart card data. This is particularly true for cities like Gatineau, Canada, where the bus system serves passengers with different travel patterns. Understanding the evolution of these patterns marks an important point in improving transit demand forecasting models. Indeed, better models can help transit planners to create optimized networks. This paper proposes a comparison of a traditional and an experimental methodology aiming to identify the evolution of travel structure among transit users. These methodologies are based on the clustering of multi-week travel patterns derived from a large sample of smart card transactions (35.4 million). Representing users’ behavior, these patterns are constructed using the number of trips made by every card on each day of a week. Behavior vectors are defined by seven components (one for each day) and are clustered using a K-means algorithm. The experimental week-to-week method consists in clustering the population on each week, while using the clustering results from the previous week as seed. This latter approach makes it possible to observe the evolution of users’ behaviors and also has a better clustering quality in a similar computation time than the traditional method.


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