Change in departure time for a train trip to avoid crowding during the COVID-19 pandemic: A latent class study in the Netherlands

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, mode - rail, operations - crowding, technology - intelligent transport systems, planning - methods, planning - signage/information, policy - fares, ridership - attitudes, ridership - behaviour


Public transport crowding, Acute respiratory infection, Departure time change, Valuation of crowding, Latent class cluster models


After the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, crowding has been highlighted as a risk factor for contracting acute respiratory infections (ARIs) such as COVID-19, which has affected the demand for public transport. Although several countries, including the Netherlands, have implemented differential fare systems for peak and off-peak travel to reduce crowding during the rush hours, the problem of overcrowding on trains has remained prevalent and is expected to cause more disutility than even before the pandemic. A stated choice experiment in the Netherlands is conducted to understand the extent to which people can be motivated to change their departure time to avoid crowded trains during rush hours by offering them real-time information on on-board crowding levels and a discount on the train fare. To gain further insights into how travelers respond to crowding and capture unobserved heterogeneity in the data, latent class models have been estimated. Unlike the previous studies, the respondents were segregated into two groups before the start of the choice experiment based on their indicated preference to schedule a delay earlier or later than their desired departure. To study the change in travel behavior during the pandemic, the context of different vaccination stages was also provided in the choice experiment. Background information collected in the experiment was broadly categorized as socio-demographic, travel and work-related factors, and attitudes towards health and COVID-19. It was found that the coefficients obtained for the main attributes which were presented in the choice experiment (on-board crowd levels, scheduled delay and discount offered on full fare) were found statistically significant, and in line with previous research. It was concluded that when most of the people are vaccinated in the Netherlands, the travelers become less averse to on-board crowding. The research also indicates that certain groups of respondents, such as those who are highly crowd averse, and are not students, can be motivated to change their departure time if real-time crowding information was provided. Other groups of respondents who were found to value fare discounts can also be motivated to change their departure by similar incentives.


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


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