Understanding the travel behaviors and activity patterns of the vulnerable population using smart card data: An activity space-based approach

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - urban, place - asia, mode - bus, technology - passenger information, ridership - behaviour, ridership - disadvantage, planning - methods


Vulnerable population, Travel behavior, Activity patterns, Activity space, Smart card data


Understanding the travel behaviors and activity patterns of vulnerable people is important for addressing social equity in urban and transportation planning. With the increasing availability of large-scale individual tracking data, new opportunities have emerged for studying people's travel behaviors and activity patterns. However, the data has not been fully exploited to examine the travel characteristics of vulnerable people and their implications for understanding transport-related disadvantage. This study proposes a methodological framework based on the concept of activity space that enables a comprehensive examination of vulnerable people's spatiotemporal travel characteristics and an investigation of the geographies of transport disadvantage. Using the proposed framework, a case study that investigates the bus activities of the vulnerable population using four-month smart card data is carried out in the city of Wuhu, China. The case study suggests that vulnerable people possess distinct travel behaviors that differ considerably from the mainstream population and that the implications of transport disadvantage, as revealed by the participation in bus activities, vary across different demographic groups and across different spatial contexts. Some of the empirical insights obtained from this study also differ from conclusions drawn from previous studies and will enrich our understandings of vulnerable people's activities. Overall, the paper makes two major contributions. Methodologically, the proposed framework can overcome some of the deficiencies of activity space-based approaches for understanding transport disadvantage and contribute broadly to the studies of travel behaviors and activities patterns using individual-level tracking data. Empirically, the study identifies varying spatial and temporal implications of transport disadvantage associated with different vulnerable groups, which could further shed light on public transit planning and service design.


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


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