Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Transport disruptions, big data and travel behavior

A new discussion paper shows how a strike in the underground system of London could actually improve general welfare and make individuals' travel behavior more efficient. (via Tyler Cowen).

Larcomy, S., Rauch, F., Willems, T. The benefits of forced experimentation: striking evidence from the London underground network. University of Oxford. Department of Economics Discussion Paper Series (Ref: 755 )
Abstract: We estimate that a significant fraction of commuters on the London underground do not travel their optimal route. Consequently, a tube strike (which forced many commuters to experiment with new routes) taught commuters about the existence of superior journeys -- bringing about lasting changes in behaviour. This effect is stronger for commuters who live in areas where the tube map is more distorted, thereby pointing towards the importance of informational imperfections. We argue that the information produced by the strike improved network-efficiency. Search costs are unlikely to explain the suboptimal behaviour. Instead, individuals seem to under-experiment in normal times, as a result of which constraints can be welfare-improving.

The researchers examined 20 days' worth of anonymised Oyster card data, containing more than 200 million data points, in order to see how individual tube journeys changed during the London tube strike in February 2014.


No comments: