Crowding on public transport using smart card data during the COVID-19 pandemic: New methodology and case study in Chile

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - south america, place - urban, mode - bus, operations - crowding, technology - geographic information systems, technology - passenger information, technology - ticketing systems, planning - methods


Crowding measures, Global positioning system, SARS-CoV-2, Transport supply


Most crowding measures in public transportation are usually aggregated at a service level. This type of aggregation does not help to analyze microscopic behavior such as exposure risk to viruses. To bridge such a gap, our paper proposes four novel crowding measures that might be well suited to proxy virus exposure risk at public transport. In addition, we conduct a case study in Santiago, Chile, using smart card data of the buses system to compute the proposed measures for three different and relevant periods of the COVID-19 pandemic: before, during, and after Santiago’s lockdown. We find that the governmental policies diminished public transport crowding considerably for the lockdown phase. The average exposure time when social distancing is not possible passes from 6.39 min before lockdown to 0.03 min during the lockdown, while the average number of encountered persons passes from 43.33 to 5.89. We shed light on how the pandemic impacts differ across various population groups in society. Our findings suggest that poorer municipalities returned faster to crowding levels similar to those before the pandemic.


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


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