Real-time trip purpose prediction using online location-based search and discovery services

Alireza Ermagun, Yingling Fan, Julian Wolfson, Gediminas Adomavicius, Kirti Das

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The use of smartphone technology is increasingly considered a state-of-the-art practice in travel data collection. Researchers have investigated various methods to automatically predict trip characteristics based upon locational and other smartphone sensing data. Of the trip characteristics being studied, trip purpose prediction has received relatively less attention. This research develops trip purpose prediction models based upon online location-based search and discovery services (specifically, Google Places API) and a limited set of trip data that are usually available upon the completion of the trip. The models have the potential to be integrated with smartphone technology to produce real-time trip purpose prediction. We use a recent, large-scale travel behavior survey that is augmented by downloaded Google Places information on each trip destination to develop and validate the models. Two statistical and machine learning prediction approaches are used, including nested logit and random forest methods. Both sets of models show that Google Places information is a useful predictor of trip purpose in situations where activity- and person-related information is uncollectable, missing, or unreliable. Even when activity- and person-related information is available, incorporating Google Places information provides incremental improvements in trip purpose prediction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-112
Number of pages17
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017


  • Google Places
  • Nested logit model
  • Online location-based search
  • Random forest model
  • Smartphone
  • Trip purpose prediction


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