A robust method for estimating transit passenger trajectories using automated data

Pramesh Kumar, Alireza Khani, Qing He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Development of an origin-destination demand matrix is crucial for transit planning. The development process is facilitated by automated transit smart card data, making it possible to mine boarding and alighting patterns on an individual basis. This research proposes a novel trip chaining method which uses Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) and General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data to infer the most likely trajectory of individual transit passengers. The method relaxes the assumptions on various parameters used in the existing trip chaining algorithms such as transfer walking distance threshold, buffer distance for selecting the boarding location, time window for selecting the vehicle trip, etc. The method also resolves issues related to errors in GPS location recorded by AFC systems or selection of incorrect sub-route from GTFS data. The proposed trip chaining method generates a set of candidate trajectories for each AFC tag to reach the next tag, calculates the probability of each trajectory, and selects the most likely trajectory to infer the boarding and alighting stops. The method is applied to transit data from the Twin Cities, MN, which has an open transit system where passengers tap smart cards only once when boarding (or when alighting on pay-exit buses). Based on the consecutive tags of the passenger, the proposed algorithm is also modified for pay-exit cases. The method is compared to previous methods developed by the researchers and shows improvement in the number of inferred cases. Finally, results are visualized to understand the route ridership and geographical pattern of trips.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)731-747
Number of pages17
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
StatePublished - Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Automatic Fare Collection (AFC)
  • General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS)
  • Smart card data
  • Transit
  • Transit origin-destination (O-D) Matrix
  • Trip chaining algorithm


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