Comparison of Door-to-Door Transit Travel Time Estimation Using Schedules, Real-Time Vehicle Arrivals, and Smartcard Inference Methods

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, place - north america, technology - automatic vehicle monitoring, technology - ticketing systems, technology - passenger information, operations - reliability, operations - scheduling, ridership - behaviour, planning - methods


General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), automatic vehicle location systems, smartcard, travel time estimates


Estimating passengers’ door-to-door travel time, for journeys that combine walking and public transit, can be complex for large networks with many available path alternatives. Additional complications arise in tap-on only transit systems, where passengers alightings are not recorded. For one such system, the Chicago Transit Authority, this study compares three methods for estimating door-to-door travel time: assuming optimal path choice given scheduled service, as represented in the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS); assuming optimal path choice given actually operated bus service, as recorded by automatic vehicle location systems; and using inferred path choices based on automated fare collection smartcard records, as processed with an origin-destination-interchange (ODX) inference algorithm. As expected, ODX-derived travel times are found to be longer than those derived from GTFS, indicating that purely schedule-based travel times underestimate the travel times that are actually available and experienced, which can be attributed primarily to suboptimal passenger route choice. These discrepancies additionally manifest in significant spatial variations, raising concerns about potential biases in travel time estimates that do not account for reliability. The findings bring about a more comprehensive understanding of the interactions between transit reliability and passenger behavior in transportation research. Furthermore, these discrepancies suggest areas of future research into the implications of systematic and behavioral assumptions implied by using conventional schedule-based travel time estimates.


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