A data fusion approach with mobile phone data for updating travel survey-based mode split estimates

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Up-to-date information on different modes of travel to monitor transport traffic and evaluate rapid urban transport planning interventions is often lacking. Transport systems typically rely on traditional data sources providing outdated mode-of-travel data due to their data latency, infrequent data collection and high cost. To address this issue, we propose a method that leverages mobile phone data as a cost-effective and rich source of geospatial information to capture current human mobility patterns at unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution. Our approach employs mobile phone application usage traces to infer modes of transportation that are challenging to identify (bikes and ride-hailing/taxi services) based on mobile phone location data. Using data fusion and matrix factorisation techniques, we integrate official data sources (household surveys and census data) with mobile phone application usage data. This integration enables us to reconstruct the official data and create an updated dataset that incorporates insights from digital footprint data from application usage. We illustrate our method using a case study focused on Santiago, Chile successfully inferring four modes of transportation: mass-transit (all public transportation), motorised (cars and similar vehicles), active (pedestrian and cycle trips), and taxi (traditional taxi and ride-hailing services). Our analysis revealed significant changes in transportation patterns between 2012 and 2020. We quantify a reduction in mass-transit usage across municipalities in Santiago, except where metro/rail lines have been more recently introduced, highlighting added resilience to the public transport network of these infrastructure enhancements. Additionally, we evidence an overall increase in motorised transport throughout Santiago, revealing persistent challenges in promoting urban sustainable transportation. Findings also point to a rise in the share of taxi usage, and a drop in active mobility, suggesting a modal shift towards less sustainable modes of travel. We validate our findings comparing our updated estimates with official smart card transaction data. The consistency of findings with expert domain knowledge from the literature and historical transport usage trends further support the robustness of our approach.



Mobile phone data, Mode split, Global south, Data fusion, Data integration, Matrix factorisation


Eduardo Graells-Garrido, Daniela Opitz, Francisco Rowe, Jacqueline Arriagada, A data fusion approach with mobile phone data for updating travel survey-based mode split estimates, Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies, Volume 155, 2023, 104285, ISSN 0968-090X,