Equity of public transport costs before and after a fare policy reform: An empirical evaluation using smartcard data

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - australasia, policy - equity, policy - fares


Public transport, Fare policy reform, Fare equity, Smartcard data, Australia


Smartcard-based public transit systems have been widely adopted across many cities around the world. These systems generate large volumes of transaction records from individual passenger trips and contain the requisite information that enable the mapping, measurement and monitoring of fare equity. In this paper, we propose and apply new measures to evaluate fare equity using smartcard data to map changes in fare equities following a fare policy reform across a major metropolitan region in Australia. Smartcard data is used to first reconstruct individual travel trajectories on which we compute our measures to explore two dimensions of equity: (1) ‘horizontal’ (for all passengers) versus ‘vertical’ (different types of passengers); and, (2) ‘global’ (across the entire transit network) versus ‘local’ (for a specific travel zone). Results reveal that in the first dimension the fare policy reform led to more equitable fares with the effect of diminishing spatial variations under the old policy for all types of transit passengers (adults, children, seniors and concession card holders); however, the impact of this fare policy reform reflected in the second dimension is subject to the number of zones travelled, residential location of passengers, the number of journeys made within the week and the applicable incentives. Finally, we draw on our empirical approach to report on a prototype dashboard through which public transit agencies have the capacity to map, measure and monitor how ridership translates to fare equities. More generally, we highlight the capacity of smartcard data, when embedded within our empirical framework, to better inform smarter policy around fare reforms in order to achieve greater equity across service populations.


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


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