What do riders say and where? The detection and analysis of eyewitness transit tweets

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, technology - intelligent transport systems, ridership - behaviour


incident detection, incident management, public transit, Twitter


Information shared on social media by transit system customers is often candid, localized, and includes in the moment information about emerging events or issues. Twitter provides an unfiltered and timestamped feed of information that can be aggregated to generate valuable insights. Our research aims to identify passenger-related transit incidents from a public Twitter feed. Detecting these incidents in real time enables transit agencies to immediately respond to them by dispatching security, safety, or maintenance crews or by rapidly replying to requests made to the agency that are urgent in nature. We leverage natural language processing to extract latent information from identified eyewitness tweets about transit, focusing on location details, topic classification, and sentiment analysis. We outline an approach to developing a useful corpus of transit-focused tweets, detecting in the moment events, classifying these tweets into topics, and detecting locations where possible. We then demonstrate the approach through an application to Calgary Transit in Calgary, Canada. The results demonstrate that key incidents can be identified and prioritized for an agency.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Taylor&Francis, copyright remains with them.