Exploring the potential of open big data from ticketing websites to characterize travel patterns within the Chinese high-speed rail system
by Sheng Wei, Jinfu Yuan, Yanning Qiu, Xiali Luan, Shanrui Han, Wen Zhou, Chi XuBig data have contributed to deepen our understanding in regards to many human systems, particularly human mobility patterns and the structure and functioning of transportation systems. Resonating the recent call for ‘open big data,’ big data from various sources on a range of scales have become increasingly accessible to the public. However, open big data relevant to travelers within public transit tools remain scarce, hindering any further in-depth study on human mobility patterns. Here, we explore ticketing-website derived data that are publically available but have been largely neglected. We demonstrate the power, potential and limitations of this open big data, using the Chinese high-speed rail (HSR) system as an example. Using an application programming interface, we automatically collected the data on the remaining tickets (RTD) for scheduled trains at the last second before departure in order to retrieve information on unused transit capacity, occupancy rate of trains, and passenger flux at stations. We show that this information is highly useful in characterizing the spatiotemporal patterns of traveling behaviors on the Chinese HSR, such as weekend traveling behavior, imbalanced commuting behavior, and station functionality. Our work facilitates the understanding of human traveling patterns along the Chinese HSR, and the functionality of the largest HSR system in the world. We expect our work to attract attention regarding this unique open big data source for the study of analogous transportation systems.
Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article
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