Exploring changes in the spatial distribution of the low-to-moderate income group using transit smart card data

Qi Li Gao, Qing Quan Li, Yang Yue, Yan Zhuang, Zhi Peng Chen, Hui Kong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Property booms have caused residential spatial distribution changes in many metropolitan areas. To understand the impact of surging housing prices on the low-to-moderate income group, this study uses transit smart card data to explore whether and to what extent increasing housing affordability pressure impacts the pattern of residential spatial distribution. This analysis is based on the facts that most public transit commuters are in the low-to-moderate income group and that transit smart cards continuously record individual spatial choice behaviors. Compared with conventional approaches using census data or survey data, our approach can more quickly detect residential changes. Experimental results indicated that most low-to-moderate income dwellers lived in low-housing-cost areas with high accessibility to public transportation. Three relocation patterns were discovered based on significant changes in residential spatial distribution. The overall pattern is to move from the inner city to suburban areas or to the urban periphery, where housing costs are much lower. Specifically, these commuters moved along traffic corridors (metro lines), which indicates that their residential choices were constrained by employment locations and public transport facilities. Finally, these commuters presented a jumping relocation pattern along metro lines due to the search for low-rent housing. Our findings provide some insights into urban dynamics, as well as urban and housing policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-77
Number of pages10
JournalComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
StatePublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation of China (No. 91546106 , 41371377 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Housing affordability
  • Low-to-moderate income group
  • Residential relocation
  • Residential spatial distribution
  • Transit smart card data


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