Estimation of trip purposes in public transport during the COVID-19 pandemic: The case of Santiago, Chile

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - south america, place - urban, technology - passenger information, technology - ticketing systems, planning - surveys, ridership - behaviour, ridership - demand


COVID-19, Public transportation, Trip purpose, XGBoost


The COVID-19 pandemic strongly affected the mobility of people. Several studies have quantified these changes, for example, measuring the effectiveness of quarantine measures and calculating the decrease in the use of public transport. Regarding the latter, however, a low level of understanding persists as to how the pandemic affected the distribution of trip purposes, hindering the design of policies aimed at increasing the demand for public transport in a post-pandemic era. To address this gap, in this article, we study how the purposes of trips made by public transport evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic in the city of Santiago, Chile. For this, we develop an XGBoost model using the latest available origin-destination survey as input. The calibrated model is applied to the information from smart payment cards during one week in 2018, 2020, and 2021. The results show that during the week of maximum restriction, that is, during 2020, the distribution of trips by purpose varied considerably, with the proportion of trips to work increasing, recreational trips decreasing, and trips for health purposes remaining unchanged. In sociodemographic terms, in the higher-income communes, the decrease in the proportion of trips for work purposes was much greater than that in the communes with lower income. Finally, with the gradual return to in-person activities in 2021, the distribution of trip purposes returned to values similar to those before the pandemic, although with a lower total amount, which suggests that unless relevant measures are taken, the low use of public transportation could be permanent.


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


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