Traveler Responses to Real-Time Transit Passenger Information Systems

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In recent years, a considerable amount of money has been spent on Real-time Transit Passenger Information Systems (RTPISs), which provide timely and accurate transit information to current and potential riders to enable them to make better pre-trip and en-route decisions. Understanding traveler responses to real-time transit information is critical for designing such services and evaluating their effectiveness. To answer this question, an effort is made in this dissertation to systematically conceptualize a variety of behavioral and psychological responses travelers may undertake to real-time transit information and empirically examine the causal effects of real-time information on traveler behavior and psychology.

This research takes ShuttleTrac, a newly implemented real-time bus arrival information system for UMD's Shuttle-UM service, as a case for empirical study. In Part 1 analysis, using panel datasets derived from three-waved online campus transportation surveys, fixed-effects OLS models and random-effects ordered probit models are estimated to sort out causal relations between ShuttleTrac information use and general/cumulative behavioral and psychological outcomes. In addition, a two-stage instrumental variable model was estimated to examine the potential change in habitual mode choices due to real-time transit information use. The results show that with a few months of adjustment, travelers may increase their trip-making frequency as a result of real-time transit information use, and positive psychological outcomes are more prominent in both short and longer terms.

In Part 2 analyses, using the cross-sectional dataset derived from the onboard survey, OLS models and ordered logit models were estimated to examine the trip-specific psychological effects of real-time transit information. The results show that these trip-specific psychological effects of real-time transit information do exist in expected directions and they vary among user groups and in different scenarios. A finding consistent across two parts of analyses is that accuracy of information plays a greater role in determining traveler behavior and psychology than the mere presence.

This research contributes to the general discussion on traveler behavior under advanced information by 1) developing an integrative conceptual framework; and 2) providing useful insights into the issue with much empirical evidences obtained with revealed-preference data and sophisticated modeling techniques.