Measuring Regularity of Individual Travel Patterns

TitleMeasuring Regularity of Individual Travel Patterns
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationSubmitted
AuthorsGoulet-Langlois G, Koutsopoulos HN, Zhao Z, Zhao J
JournalIEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems
Keywordsentropy rate, intrapersonal variability, Regularity, Smart card data, Travel behavior


Regularity is an important property of individual travel behavior, and the ability to measure it enables advances in behavior modeling, mobility prediction, and customer analytics. In this paper, we propose a methodology to measure travel

behavior regularity based on the order in which trips or activities are organized. We represent individuals’ travel over multiple days as sequences of “travel events”—discrete and repeatable behavior units explicitly defined based on the research question and the available data. We then present a metric of regularity based on entropy rate, which is sensitive to both the frequency of travel events and the order in which they occur. The methodology is demonstrated using a large sample of transit smart card transaction records from London, UK. The entropy rate is estimated with a procedure based on the Burrows-Wheeler transform. The results confirm that the order of travel events is an essential component of regularity in travel behavior. They also demonstrate that the proposed measure of regularity captures both conventional patterns and atypical routine patterns that are regular but not matched to the 9-to-5 working day or working week. Unlike existing measures of regularity, our approach is agnostic to calendar definitions and makes no assumptions regarding periodicity of travel behavior. The proposed methodology is flexible and can be adapted to study other aspects of individual mobility using different data sources.