Reducing Subway Crowding: Analysis of an Off-peak Discount Experiment in Hong Kong

TitleReducing Subway Crowding: Analysis of an Off-peak Discount Experiment in Hong Kong
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsAnne Halvorsen, Haris Koutsopoulos, Jinhua Zhao
JournalTransportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board

Increases in ridership are outpacing capacity expansions in a number of transit systems. By shifting their focus to demand management, agencies can instead influence how customers use the system, getting more out of the capacity they already have. This paper uses Hong Kong's MTR system as a case study to explore the effects of crowding-reduction strategies as well as methods to use automatically collected fare data to support these measures. MTR introduced a pre-peak discount in September 2014 to encourage users to travel before the peak hour and reduce on-board crowding. To understand the impacts of this intervention, existing congestion patterns were first reviewed and a clustering analysis was performed to reveal typical travel patterns among MTR users. Then changes to when users chose to travel were studied at three levels to evaluate the program’s effects. Patterns among 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, revealing differing responses to the promotion among groups. The incentive was found to have small impacts on morning travel, particularly at the beginning of the peak hour 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.