Quantifying the ex-post causal impact of differential pricing on commuter trip scheduling in Hong Kong

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - asia, mode - mass transit, mode - rail, economics - pricing, technology - ticketing systems, ridership - behaviour, ridership - commuting, operations - crowding


Public transport pricing, Peak spreading, Causal analysis, Smart card data, Difference-in-difference, Trip scheduling


This paper quantifies the causal impact of differential pricing on the trip-scheduling of regular commuters using the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) in Hong Kong. It does so by applying a difference-in-difference (DID) method to large scale smart card data before and after the introduction of the Early Bird Discount (EBD) pricing intervention. We find statistically significant but small effects of the EBD in the form of earlier departure times. Leveraging the granularity of the data, we also allow for the treatment effect to vary over observed travel characteristics. Our empirical results suggest that fares and crowding are the key determinants of commuter responsiveness to the EBD policy.


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


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