Journal Article
Reducing Subway Crowding: Analysis of an Off-Peak Discount Experiment in Hong Kong

Increases in ridership are outpacing capacity expansions in several transit systems. By shifting their focus to demand management, agencies can instead influence how customers use the system and get more out of their present capacity. This paper uses Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system as a case study to explore the effects of crowding reduction strategies and how to use fare data to support these measures. The MTR system introduced a discount in September 2014 to encourage users to travel before the peak and reduce onboard crowding. To understand the impacts of this intervention, first, existing congestion patterns were reviewed and a clustering analysis was used to reveal typical travel patterns among users. Then, changes to users’ departure times were studied at three levels to evaluate the promotion’s effects. Patterns of all users were measured across both the whole system and for specific rail segments. The travel patterns of the user groups, who have more homogeneous usage characteristics, were also evaluated and revealed groups who had differing responses to the promotion. The incentive was found to have affected morning travel, particularly at the beginning of the peak hour period and among users with commuter-like behavior. Aggregate and group-specific elasticities were developed to inform future promotions and the results were also used to suggest other potential incentive designs.

Title
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsHalvorsen A, Koutsopoulos HN, Lau S, Au T, Zhao J
JournalJournal of the Transportation Research Board
Volume2544
Pagination38-46
KeywordsHong Kong, off-peak discount, public transit, subway crowding, travel demand management
Abstract

Increases in ridership are outpacing capacity expansions in several transit systems. By shifting their focus to demand management, agencies can instead influence how customers use the system and get more out of their present capacity. This paper uses Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system as a case study to explore the effects of crowding reduction strategies and how to use fare data to support these measures. The MTR system introduced a discount in September 2014 to encourage users to travel before the peak and reduce onboard crowding. To understand the impacts of this intervention, first, existing congestion patterns were reviewed and a clustering analysis was used to reveal typical travel patterns among users. Then, changes to users’ departure times were studied at three levels to evaluate the promotion’s effects. Patterns of all users were measured across both the whole system and for specific rail segments. The travel patterns of the user groups, who have more homogeneous usage characteristics, were also evaluated and revealed groups who had differing responses to the promotion. The incentive was found to have affected morning travel, particularly at the beginning of the peak hour period and among users with commuter-like behavior. Aggregate and group-specific elasticities were developed to inform future promotions and the results were also used to suggest other potential incentive designs.

URLhttp://trrjournalonline.trb.org/doi/abs/10.3141/2544-05
DOI10.3141/2544-05
Refereed DesignationRefereed