Integrated Fare Structure: Analysing the Impact on Travel Behaviour Using Smart Card Data

Integrated Fare Structure: Analysing the Impact on Travel Behaviour Using Smart Card Data


Teik-Soon LOOI, Land Transport Authority, Di Pan, Land Transport Authority, George Sun, Land Transport Authority


Using historical smartcard data captured by the ticketing system, analysis shows that the new integrated fare structure has delivered the intended outcome of allowing commuters to pay by distance and choose their routes that best suit their needs.


In 2010, Singapore implemented a new integrated distance based through-fare structure (i.e. Distance Fares) for the entire public transport system. Under Distance Fares, commuters pay according to the distance travelled in a single journey on bus and rail (i.e. mass rapid transit or light rail transit), regardless of whether they travel direct using a single mode, or make transfers involving different modes. It effectively removes transfer penalty on fares that comes with each transfer.

Distance Fares offer commuters with more choices and flexibility to decide on the best route to reach their destinations without incurring additional boarding charge at each transfer. A commuter who prefers to wait for a particular direct service can choose to do so. Another commuter who wants a faster journey can choose to hop onto the first bus that comes along and then make transfers along the way to reach the same place. In other words, these two commuters (one is direct and the other makes transfers) pay the same fare for the same journey distance, regardless of mode and transfers.

The objective of this paper is to examine the effect of Distance Fares on commuters’ travel behaviour. The results presented here are based on the analysis of smart card data, captured in the PLANET, over a period of three years before and after the implementation of Distance Fares. The Planning for Land trAnsport NETwork (PLANET) is an enterprise data warehouse developed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), Singapore. PLANET captures billions of boarding and alighting transaction records from the smart card ticketing system, allowing detailed analysis of travel behaviour patterns by spatial, temporal and price dimensions. It contains actual information on origin-destination, distances, hours, modes, fares, card-type, patron-type, service-type, etc.

The methodology involved using stratified random sampling to select some 10% of all the adult and senior citizen cards that were used in both the periods before and after Distance Fares. The journey patterns of such selected cards (about 92,000) were analysed to see to what extent the card holders had responded to Distance Fares (i.e. making transfers instead of taking direct journey), based on logical assumptions.

The results showed that, since Distance Fares, the number of transfers had increased significantly yet the transfer time has decreased. The percentage of bus-bus transfer journeys increased significantly after the implementation of Distance Fares. Comparing bus-bus transfer journeys and direct bus journeys, average transfer time had dropped and average travelling cost (fare paid by commuters) had remained unchanged under Distance Fares. Some commuters were prepared to take a slightly longer transfer journey, if the journey fares did not cost them more.

Analysis on individual commuter’s travel patterns showed that more than 2% of commuters had adjusted their travel behaviours, suggesting that Distance Fares had effectively influenced commuters’ preference between direct and transfer journeys and resulted in behaviours changes when taking buses. Commuters were willing to hop onto the first bus and make transfers along the way for faster journeys, when they would not need to pay additional boarding charge. The increasing adoption trend at initial period showed that such major policy change required some time to take effect and its impact was related to the extent that commutes understood its benefit. Tapping behaviour was improved. There was unintended behaviour observed as commuters sought to maximise their utilities.

Additional benefit of Distance Fares included more smart card holders have been found to be tapping cards at the alighting points, thereby allowing a more comprehensive data to be captured by PLANET for more accurate analysis and research.

The results confirm that Distance Fares has delivered the intended effect of allowing commuters to pay by distance and choose their routes that best suit their needs.


Association for European Transport