Measuring risk of missing transfers in public transit systems using high-resolution schedule and real-time bus location data

New paper: Liu, L. and Miller, H.J. (2020) “Measuring risk of missing transfers in public transit systems using high-resolution schedule and real-time bus location data,” Urban Studies  (Special issue on Big Data in the City)

Abstract: The emergence of urban Big Data creates new opportunities for a deeper understanding of transportation within cities, revealing patterns and dynamics that were previously hidden. Public transit agencies are collecting and publishing high-resolution schedule and real-time vehicle location data to help users schedule trips and navigate the system. We can use these data to generate new insights into public transit delays, a major source of user dissatisfaction. Leveraging open General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) and administrative Automatic Passenger Counter (APC) data, we develop two measures to assess the risk of missing bus route transfers and the consequent time penalties due to delays. Risk of Missing Transfers (RoMT) measures the empirical probability of missed transfers, and Average Total Time Penalty (ATTP) shows overall time loss compared to the schedule. We apply these measures to data from the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), a public transit agency serving the Columbus, Ohio, USA metropolitan area. We aggregate, visualise and analyse these measures at different spatial and temporal resolutions, revealing patterns that demonstrate the heterogeneous impacts of bus delays. We also simulate the impacts of dedicated bus lanes reducing missing risk and time penalties. Results demonstrate the effectiveness of measures based on high-resolution schedule and real-time vehicle location data to assess the impacts of delays and to guide planning and decision making that can improve on-time performance.

Keywords:  automatic passenger counter data, General Transit Feed Specification data, public transit, risk of missing transfer

Measuring the impacts of new public transit services on space-time accessibility

Lee, J. and Miller, H. J. (2018) “Measuring the impacts of new public transit services on space-time accessibility: An analysis of transit system redesign and new bus rapid transit in Columbus, Ohio, USA,” Applied Geography, 93, 47-63.


  • Lack of access to opportunities contributes to poor social and health outcomes.
  • Columbus, OH introduced a transit route and schedule redesign and bus rapid transit.
  • We analyze impacts on accessibility to opportunities in a deprived neighborhood.
  • Detailed route and schedule data allow high resolution accessibility analysis.
  • The new bus rapid transit has a much greater impact on accessibility


The absence of effective access to opportunities and services is a key contributor to poor socio-economic and health outcomes in underserved neighborhoods in many cities. The city of Columbus, Ohio, USA is attempting to enhance residents’ accessibility by providing new public transit services. These new services include a major Transit System Redesign (TSR) of the conventional bus network and the introduction of a new bus rapid transit, named CMAX. Using a high-resolution space-time accessibility measure, we analyze whether these new public transit services will change residents’ accessibility to job and healthcare in an underserved neighborhood of Columbus. Also, we assess whether enhancing the CMAX service to reduce delays (e.g., reserved lane, off-board payment system) will improve accessibility. The high-resolution space-time accessibility measure in this study uses published public transit schedules via the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). We use multiple departure times during a day to account for the temporal fluctuations of accessibility based on the transit schedule changes. We also consider the operating hours of job opportunities and healthcare services. Results suggest that the TSR yields ambiguous benefits for accessibility to jobs and healthcare. However, the new CMAX service and its potential upgrades lead to a substantial increase in both job and healthcare accessibility. The results can be used for city officials and urban planners to evaluate the effectiveness of public transit innovations in improving accessibility.

Keywords: Transportation; Space-time accessibility; Public transit; Bus rapid transit; Jobs; Healthcare

Out for Good podcast on Mobility in Columbus

I am happy to be part of the first episode of Out for Good, a weekly podcast that explores issues facing Central Ohio and highlights the individuals and organizations making an impact.

Elissa Scheider (Transit Columbus) and I discuss why mobility is important to our community with co-hosts Jason Phillips and J.M. Rayburn.  You can listen to the podcast here.