Assessing the cost of transfer inconvenience in public transport systems: A case study of the London Underground

Zhan Guo, Nigel H M Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Few studies have adequately assessed the cost of transfers. 2Another term, interchange, is often used in Europe. This paper treats them as interchangeable.2 in public transport systems, or provided useful guidance on transfer improvements, such as where to invest (which facility), how to invest (which aspect), and how much to invest (quantitative justification of the investment). This paper proposes a new method based on path choice,. 3Path choice is different from " way-finding" and " route choice." " Way-finding" refers to the process by which a traveler finds a path to his (her) destination. The question in that case is how to acquire information to find a route in unknown terrain. " Route-choice" sometimes refers to a choice among different services in a public transport network, even if they follow the same physical path. In this case, the decision is whether to board an arriving vehicle or to wait for a later vehicle that will have lower in-vehicle time. Neither situation will be addressed in this research; therefore, a different term, path choice, is adopted.3 taking into account both the operator's service supply and the customers' subjective perceptions to assess transfer cost and to identify ways to reduce it. This method evaluates different transfer components (e.g., transfer walking, waiting, and penalty) with distinct policy solutions and differentiates between transfer stations and movements. The method is applied to one of the largest and most complex public transport systems in the world, the London Underground (LUL), with a focus on 17 major transfer stations and 303 transfer movements. This study confirms that transfers pose a significant cost to LUL, and that cost is distributed unevenly across stations and across platforms at a station. Transfer stations are perceived very differently by passengers in terms of their overall cost and composition. The case study suggests that a better understanding of transfer behavior and improvements to the transfer experience could significantly benefit public transport systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-104
Number of pages14
JournalTransportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • London Underground
  • Path choice
  • Public transport
  • Transfer cost
  • Transfer penalty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Transportation
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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