Estimation and Mitigation of Epidemic Risk on a Public Transit Route using Automatic Passenger Count Data

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, place - north america, place - urban, technology - passenger information, planning - methods, planning - personal safety/crime, operations - capacity, operations - frequency


public transit, automatic passenger count (APC), risk of disease transmission


This paper studies the potential spread of infectious disease through passenger encounters in a public transit system using automatic passenger count (APC) data. An algorithmic procedure is proposed to evaluate three different measures to quantify these encounters. The first two measures quantify the increased possibility of disease spread from passenger interaction when traveling between different origin–destination pairs. The third measure evaluates an aggregate measure quantifying the relative risk of boarding at a particular stop of the transit route. For calculating these measures, compressed sensing is employed to estimate a sparse passenger flow matrix planted in the underdetermined system of equations obtained from the APC data. Using the APC data of Route 5 in Minneapolis/St. Paul region during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was found that all three measures grow abruptly with the number of passengers on board. The passenger contact network is densely connected, which further increases the potential risk of disease transmission. To reduce the relative risk, it is proposed to restrict the number of passengers on-board and analyze the effect of this using a simulation framework. It was found that a considerable reduction in the relative risk can be achieved when the maximum number of passengers on-board is restricted below 15. To account for the reduced capacity and still maintain reasonable passenger wait times, it would then be necessary to increase the frequency of the route.


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