Mind the map! The impact of transit maps on path choice in public transit

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This paper investigates the impact of schematic transit maps on passengers' travel decisions. It does two things: First, it proposes an analysis framework that defines four types of information delivered from a transit map: distortion, restoration, codification, and cognition. It then considers the potential impact of this information on three types of travel decisions: location, mode, and path choices.1Path refers to a unique sequence of entry, transfer, and exit stations/stops in the public transit network. The author differentiates between path and route choices because the latter could refer to a situation among different service routes that follow the same physical path, which is not the purpose of this analysis.1 Second, it conducts an empirical analysis to explore the impact of the famous London tube map on passengers' path choice in the London Underground (LUL). Using data collected by LUL from 1998 to 2005, the paper develops a path choice model and compares the influence between the distorted tube map (map distance) and reality (travel time) on passengers' path choice behavior. Results show that the elasticity of the map distance is twice that of the travel time, which suggests that passengers often trust the tube map more than their own travel experience on deciding the "best" travel path. This is true even for the most experienced passengers using the system. The codification of transfer connections on the tube map, either as a simple dot or as an extended link, could affect passengers' transfer decisions. The implications to transit operation and planning, such as trip assignments, overcrowding mitigation, and the deployment of Advanced Transit Information System (ATIS), are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)625-639
Number of pages15
JournalTransportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Cognitive map
  • London Underground
  • Path choice
  • Transit map
  • Tube map

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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