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Transportation Research
Research Procedia
Procedia 00
00 (2017)
(2017) 000–000
Transportation Research Procedia 25C (2017) 2445–2453

World Conference on Transport Research - WCTR 2016 Shanghai. 10-15 July 2016

Measuring Comfort in Public Transport: A case study for İstanbul

Şükrü İmreaa*, Dilay Çelebiaa
a İstanbul Technical
İstanbul Technical University,
University, Department
Department of
of Management
Management Engineering,
Engineering, 34367,
34367, İstanbul,
İstanbul, Turkey


Passengers’ choice
choice ofof mode
mode in in public
public transport
transport depends
depends on on several
several other
other factors
factors than
than travel
travel time.
time. In
In order
order to
to increase
increase public
transport usage,
usage, transport
transport service
service should
should be
be designed
designed inin aa way
way that
that it
it accommodates
accommodates the the service
service levels
levels required
required byby customers.
Despite being
being one
one ofof thethe most
most important
important determinants
determinants of of public
public transport
transport demand,
demand, convenience
convenience is is often
often neglected
neglected inin
transportation systems
systems design
design and
and assessment
assessment of
of operational
operational performance.
performance. ThisThis study
study is
is an
an attempt
attempt to
to provide
provide aa better
better definition
of comfort
comfort in
in public
public transport
transport and
and to
to develop
develop aa framework
framework forfor measuring
measuring perception
perception ofof comfort,
comfort, one
one ofof the
the most
most important
determinants ofof public
public transport
transport convenience.
convenience. This
This paper
paper offers
offers aa new
new method
method for
for assessing
assessing comfort
comfort in
in public
public transport
transport systems
by introducing
introducing aa new
new index
index which
which isis based
based on
on aa number
number of of qualitative
qualitative andand quantitative
quantitative indicators.
indicators. It
It also
also provides
provides aa deeper
understanding ofof passengers’
passengers’ attitudes
attitudes towards
towards public
public transport
transport and
and perception
perception ofof comfort
comfort inin public
public transport
transport services.
© 2017
2017 The
The Authors.
Authors. Published
Published by by Elsevier
Elsevier B.V.
© 2017 The Authors.
Peer-review under Published byofElsevier
responsibility WORLD B.V.
Peer-review under responsibility of WORLD
Peer-review under responsibility of WORLD CONFERENCECONFERENCE ON ON TRANSPORT

Keywords: Type
Type your
your keywords
keywords here,
here, separated
separated by
by semicolons
semicolons ;;

1. Introduction
1. Introduction

Increased rate
Increased rate of
of population
population growth
growth in big cities
in big cities is
is one
one of
of the
the major
major transportation
transportation related
related problems
problems in in
developing countries, if not the most important. Rapid and unplanned urbanization in such cities
developing countries, if not the most important. Rapid and unplanned urbanization in such cities expands mobility expands mobility
demand and
demand and increases
increases the
the trend
trend ofof private
private vehicle
vehicle ownership.
ownership. This
This problem
problem isis also
also valid
valid for
for Turkey;
Turkey; major
major cities
cities like
İstanbul and
İstanbul and Ankara
Ankara have
have to to deal
deal with
with thousands
thousands ofof cars
cars running
running through
through their
their streets
streets every
every day.
day. Traffic
Traffic congestion
is increasing
is increasing even
even in
in smaller
smaller cities
cities and
and rural
rural areas,
areas, and
and congestion
congestion related
related delays
delays are
are becoming
becoming moremore frequent.
Public transport
Public transport networks
networks and and infrastructure
infrastructure play
play an
an essential
essential role
role in
in shifting
shifting the
the demand
demand from
from private
private car
ownership to
ownership to more
more efficient
efficient modes
modes ofof transportation
transportation and
and decreasing
decreasing congestion
congestion inin traffic
traffic networks.
networks. With
With more
more and
better public
better public transport,
transport, cities
cities can
can cut
cut traffic
traffic congestion,
congestion, foster
foster social
social inclusion
inclusion and
and reduce
reduce pollution.
pollution. Within
Within this

* Corresponding
Corresponding author.
author. Tel.:
Tel.: +905388436831
E-mail address:

2214-241X ©© 2017
2017 The
The Authors.
Authors. Published
Published by
by Elsevier
Elsevier B.V.
Peer-review under
under responsibility
responsibility of

2352-1465 © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.

2446 Şükrü İmre et al. / Transportation Research Procedia 25C (2017) 2445–2453
2 İmre, Ş., Çelebi,D./ Transportation Research Procedia 00 (2017) 000–000

scope, public transportation experts have started to improve coordination in public transportation networks and
introduced better pricing models to encourage use of public transportation systems. Yet, public transport is often
perceived to be a poor alternative for car use. Passengers’ choice of transportation modes depends on several factors
such as travel and transfer times, total cost, cruise comfort, reliability, and total experience of the trip. Empirical
studies show that uncertainties in journey times and traffic jams significantly increase passengers’ stress levels, and
consequently, journey times affect passengers’ quality of life.
Despite being one of the most important determinants of public transport demand, convenience is often
neglected in design of transportation systems and assessment of their operational performances. This study is an
attempt to provide a better definition of comfort, a significant factor in public transport convenience. We developed
a framework to measure passengers’ perception of comfort and proposed a new method for assessing comfort in
public transport systems by introducing a new index, based on a number of qualitative and quantitative indicators.
This study provides a deeper understanding of passengers’ attitudes towards public transport and perception of
comfort in public transport services.
Our study compromises several stages. We first conducted a survey to identify the important determinants of
comfort perception in different public transport modes, and then developed an index which combines selected
qualitative and quantitative indicators. We used this index to evaluate the public transport performance in a
distinctive metropolis, Istanbul, which accommodates almost 14 million people and retains a huge network of urban

2. Literature Review

Comfort of public transport is mainly controlled by worldwide accepted quality standards. One of these
standards is EN 13816, accepted by the European Union, is a service standard in public transportation which
evaluates the satisfaction level of passengers over a range of factors such as convenience, accessibility, informing,
time/duration, customer care, ride comfort, security and environmental effects (URL-1). Ride comfort is defined as
usability of facilities, riding comfort, ambient conditions, complementary facilities, and ergonomic. Another
standard, ISO 2631-1 is related to mechanical vibration and knock, and is interested in investigating the vibration of
human body. This standard is generally the basis of comfort indexes used in technical design studies.
From an academic point of view, Juan and Fabiano (2013) focused on the dynamic factors that affect comfort in
public transportation. These factors are defined as average riding comfort, estimated riding comfort, comfort
disorders that occur in jerk, and the effects of vibration and movement disorders. They collected data over
smartphones. Their comfort index is based on root mean square of weighted acceleration data. Lin et al. (2010)
improved an existing comfort measuring system by using participant phone sensing. Their measurement system
helps to identify comfort level of vehicles by using GPS and three-dimensional accelerometer of smart phones. This
system, collects aggregated data from smart phones, obtains authorized data from transportation vehicles to provide
a detailed comfort statistics. This statistics enables comparison of comfort value of different vehicles. Similar to two
previous studies, Shin et al. (2014) benefited from smartphone capabilities. They have calculated the average
movement distance of people and identified bottlenecks of the transportation system. Their system can be used to
predict possible available mode for passengers to transport comfortably, within acceptable time.
Bodini et al. (2013) considered effects of road infrastructure (pedestrian crossing, culvert, roundabout etc.) on
comfort level of standing passengers in public transportation. Their study provides an easy comparison of vehicles’
comfort level and the ability to keep track of vehicles’ and roads’ maintenance. George et al. (2013) investigated the
effects of discomfort of standing passengers when the vehicle accelerates. They calculated discomfort index by
logistic regression analysis, which is based on acceleration and deceleration of rail systems. Data is gathered via
accelerometer of smart phones.
There exist a number of studies accept comfort factor as an element of service quality. For example, Eboli and
Mazzula (2009) measured service quality for round trips of public transportation in Conzensa, Italy. They used trip
frequency, timetable reliability, information accuracy, comfort level, cleaning, security, and reliability to measure
service quality. They developed a passenger satisfaction index which is stated as sum of weighted average of each
service factor. Edvardson(1998) investigated the dissatisfaction level of passengers over complaints of passengers
collected by in-depth interviews and questionnaires. They questioned bus drivers to evaluate passengers’ behavior.
Şükrü İmre et al. / Transportation Research Procedia 25C (2017) 2445–2453 2447
İmre, Ş., Çelebi, D./ Transportation Research Procedia 00 (2017) 000–000 3

They found that the two most common reasons of dissatisfaction in public transportation system are crowdedness od
vehicles and working condition of the heating system. They also noted that lack of coordination among public
transport systems plays an important role in satisfaction level of passengers.
Palma et al. (2014) formulated the crowdedness level function by using sitting capacity of the vehicles and
optimal trip schedules. Their study asserts the value of time in public transportation. They considered three different
scenarios for crowdedness; first scenario is for a situation where there is at least one available seat, second scenario
is when there is no available seat but the vehicle is not crowded, and last scenario is when there are so many
standing passengers and the vehicle is overcrowded. The discomfort function was determined by considering the
number of seats and maximum acceptable standing passengers in-vehicle and general time cost function is
constituted for passengers. Qin (2014) extended the structure of study of Palma et al. (2013) by bringing new
perspective to crowdedness-cost function over a cost function of crowdedness in-vehicle. They measured the
crowdedness level by a load factor and the number of standing passengers per square meters. Once the threshold
value is exceeded, cost function takes an exponential form to represent the discomfort resulted by over capacitation.
Our study differs from previous literature in its presentation of a more holistic view of comfort in public
transport. We propose a new method for assessing comfort in public transport systems by introducing a novel index
which is based on a number of qualitative and quantitative indicators. Our study also provides a deeper
understanding of passengers’ attitudes towards public transport and perception of comfort in public transport

3. Problem Definition

We have chosen Istanbul, the biggest metropolitan city in Turkey, as the pilot area to conduct this study.
Acceleration of migration, especially after 2000s (URL-2), significantly increased Istanbul’ population, which has
reached up to some 14 million (URL-3) by 2014. Population growth extends the city limits to wider geographic
areas, and creates a highly polarized city structure, with a business center located in the middle of the city,
surrounded by the mainly residential areas spread up to a diameter of 50 kilometers. The city also holds some
geographical bottlenecks; crossing the Bosporus which separates the city into two continents, Europe and Asia,
allows a limited traffic flow between the two, where the former is mainly a business district and the latter mostly
serves as a residential area. Consequently, public transportation is one of the vital issues in Istanbul, yet one cannot
claim that it is one of its best qualities. The network is complicated, transportation times are variable, schedules are
unreliable, the vehicles are uncomfortable, and passengers are unhappy. Public transportation system in Istanbul
comprises several modes such as public buses, ferries, rail systems, and Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system (also
referred as Metrobüs). Three different affiliate companies of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality operate and manage
these systems.

Demand for public transport is increasing as a result of both increased congestion and awareness-raising efforts.
Figure 1.1 illustrates the current transport load of İstanbul in various modes.



1.100 1.051
127 110 49

Bus Minibus Taxi Metro + BRT Tram Boat + Taxi Tunnel

Light ferry dolmus

Figure 1- Number of passengers per transportation mode per day (x1000) ,

Source: URL-6
4 İmre, Ş., Çelebi,D./ Transportation Research Procedia 00 (2017) 000–000
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Travel comfort plays a significant role in choice of the transportation mode. Because of the crowd level,
variabilities in transportation time, ventilation problems and similar problems, passengers may prefer to stick to their
private vehicles despite the risk of wasting hours in congestion. Literature review and our survey results suggest that
the factor determining the perception of comfort in different transportation modes varies from each other. For buses
and BRT, we consider the following determinants of comfort: level of lighting, crowd level in-vehicle, air-
conditioning, smell, seat comfort, level of noise, vibration in vehicle, driver’s behavior, driving style, sound level,
cleaning in-vehicle, information and guidance, vehicle breakdowns, delays, and weather conditions. For rail
systems, we used the same set of factors except driver’s behavior. On the other side, comfort factor in the sea lines
slightly differ. For ferry lines, factors of consideration are level of lighting, crowd level, smell, seat comfort (in
closed and open area), cleanness of the toilets, safety of piers, food and beverage facilities, collision impact at the
pier, the size of the windows, cleanness, level of noise and vibration, and availability of information and guidance.
We first conducted a survey to identify the dominant factors of comfort in each mode. We distributed the survey to
passengers, based on both their choice of transportation mode and available modes of transports in their line of
destination. We then used the dominant factors to develop a comfort function based on passenger choices. The
details of our approach are given in the next section.

4. Development of the comfort function

4.1. Crowd density function

Most of the previous studies calculate the crowd density in-vehicle by the load factor, which is determined by the
ratio of the number of standing passengers to the number of seats. Nevertheless, when we consider Istanbul’s
transportation system, this ratio becomes invalid, because the seats are removed to create more standing space and to
accommodate higher number of passengers in majority of the vehicles. As a result, vehicles having the same number
of seats may have significantly different capacities. Hence, we developed a discrete function of crowd density based
on the total capacity of the vehicles; the formulation of discomfort corresponds to a piecewise linear expression.
This function is an extended version of the crowd density function defined by Palma et al. (2014). That is to say,
Palma et al. (2014) accepts the crowd level as sufferable for up to four passengers per square meter, and as
unbearable for more than four passengers per square meter. They considered a constant cost associated for the
seating passengers, then an upwards jump to reflect the cost increase for those who are standing. Our formulation is
similar in terms of the acceptable capacity levels, yet it differs in structure of the discomfort function. For a realistic
representation of the comfort perception related to crowd in public transport, we assumed a linear increase in
discomfort level before the threshold value, and an exponential increase when it is exceeded.

Accordingly, the discomfort value as a function of estimated

crowd density in the vehicle is given by:

𝛼𝛼 𝑖𝑖𝑖𝑖 𝛼𝛼 ≤ 1
𝑥𝑥 = , (4.1)
𝑒𝑒 * 𝑖𝑖𝑖𝑖 𝛼𝛼 > 1

where estimated crowd level in-vehicle (x) is calculated by:

,-./01.23 450627 89 :1--24;27- /4<=2>/?@2 (BC )

𝛼𝛼 =
E2>/?@2 ?1:1?/.F

Figure 1: Discomfort level as a function of crowd density

İmre, Ş., Çelebi, D./ Transportation Research Procedia 00 (2017) 000–000 5
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Resulting function of the discomfort level is illustrated in Figure 1.

4.2. Estimating the number of passengers in-vehicle

We estimated the crowd density in each vehicle for a given time of the day and a location by the capacity of the
vehicles operating on the line and number of passengers entering or exiting the line in a given station. Capacity of
the vehicles for each line is assumed as follows (for 4 passengers per m2):
• BRT (18 m long vehicles): 140 passengers (URL-4)
• M2 Metro line: 704 passengers (URL-5)
• T1 Tram line: 450 passengers (URL-5)
To estimate the number of passengers between two consecutive stations (t and t+1), we used the hourly ticketing
data in the stations. For each station, we first separated the passengers in their direction of travel, based on a
probability value calculated by the number of remaining stations in both directions. We assumed that the departure
rates in the stations are proportional to the arrival rates, so we used the following formula to estimate the rate of
departure in a station t:

𝑃𝑃. = , (4.3)

where Dt is the number of arriving passengers to the station in the given time zone. We then used Equations (4.4.)
and (4.5) to estimate the number of passengers in-vehicle (Yt):

𝑌𝑌. = 𝑌𝑌.<K (1 − 𝑃𝑃. ) + (4.4)

𝑓𝑓𝑓𝑓𝑓𝑓 𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑜𝑜𝑛𝑛: 𝑡𝑡 → 𝑇𝑇
𝑟𝑟. = .<K (4.5)
𝑓𝑓𝑓𝑓𝑓𝑓 𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑: 𝑡𝑡 → 1

In Equation (4.4), n refers to the average number of trips in the given hour, and rt refers to the direction allocation
rate which is calculated on the basis of the number of stations in each direction. For example, the M2 metro line has
a total number of 15 stations (from Yenikapõ to Hacõosman). For the 6th station (Osmanbey), we assume 5/14 of the
passengers entering the line travel in the direction of Yenikapõ, and 9/14 of those go in the direction of Hacõosman.

4.3. Overall discomfort function

We used the simple additive weighting (SAW) method, also known as the weighted sum method, to calculate the
overall discomfort function. The function takes a piece-wise linear form because of the nonlinear structure of the
crowd density function. For a given time zone (day and hour), the total discomfort in a vehicle moving between
stations t and t+1 is calculated as:

𝑓𝑓 𝑥𝑥. = / 𝑤𝑤/ 𝑥𝑥/. (4.6)

where xit is the value of ith determinant of discomfort in tth hour and wi is the priority weight of ith factor. For the
crowd density xit is calculated by Equation (4.1). We used the complaint rates to estimate the value of xi for the
other factors of discomfort.
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4.4. Determination of the weights (wi)

We designed a questionnaire consisting of matrices of comfort factors to collect the pair-wise comparison
judgments from experts from operator companies for each mode of transport. We used the questionnaire data form
the corresponding pair-wise comparison judgment matrices (PCJMs) for determining the normalized weights. Each
of these matrices is then translated into the corresponding largest Eigen-value problem and is solved to find the
normalized and unique priority weights for each criterion. Resulting priority weights for mode of transport, with the
consistency ratio (CR) of each PCJM, are provided in Figures 2-4. It can be seen that the consistency ratio of each of
the PCJM is well below 0.1. This implies that the evaluations are consistent in assigning pair-wise comparison

Table 1- Priority weights for comfort determinants

Weights M2 T1 BRT
Crowdedness in-vehicle 0.5245 0.5184 0.4053
Air-conditioning in-vehicle 0.1632 0.2507 0.2243
Information and guidance 0.0428 0.0376 0.0590
Cleaning in-vehicle 0.1933 0.1317 0.1324
Seat comfort 0.0762 0.0615 -
Physical condition - - 0.0899
Vehicle breakdown - - 0.0335

5. Findings
We implemented the model to illustrate the change in comfort levels during a typical work day and holiday. BRT
line has 44 stations and its line length is 52 km. We assumed that BRT serves 24 hours a day and runs 6 trips per
hour at nights (0.00-05.00) and 60 trips per hour at non-peak hours. We investigated three different scenarios for
both peak and non-peak hours. We experimented over different the number of trips per hour to monitor how
discomfort level of changes in each scenario and so to find best frequency per hour. We particularly considered
three different service levels as high, medium, and low frequency. We respectively assumed 144, 120 and 100 trips
per hour during peak times (07.00-09.00 and 18.00-20.00), and 90, 80 and 70 trips per hour during busy (but not
peak) times (06.00-07.00 and 16.00-17.00) for high, medium, and low frequency levels.

2,00 2,00
1,80 1,80
1,60 1,60
1,40 1,40
1,20 1,20
1,00 1,00
0,80 0,80
0,60 0,60
0,40 0,40
0,20 0,20
0,00 0,00

Figure 2-Level of discomfort of BRT line on a typical holiday Figure 3- Level of discomfort of BRT line on a typical workday
Şükrü İmre et al. / Transportation Research Procedia 25C (2017) 2445–2453 2451
İmre, Ş., Çelebi, D./ Transportation Research Procedia 00 (2017) 000–000 7

The functions of discomfort levels during a typical holiday and a working day are provided in Figures 2 and 3. As
visible in this graph, discomfort values of BRT line vary according to holidays. On Sundays the rush hours are
around 14:00h and 18:00h. The coverage of the peak times significantly grows during working days, afternoon rush
hours extend to appear between 13:00h and 21:00h, and a new peak time emerges in the mornings, between 06:00h
and 10:00h. The impact of increasing service frequency from low to medium level is very high for all days.
Particularly for the holidays, increasing trip frequency to 120 during peak hours significantly increases the comfort
level, yet the marginal impact of adding 14 trips per hour is small. Nevertheless, on the working days, the increase
from medium to high trip frequency during afternoon peak times significantly improves the comfort levels in
vehicles, decreasing the number of uncomfortable time periods down to two.

Another line of implementation, M2 metro line, has 15 stations with a length of 23.6 km. We applied the
timetable issued by Istanbul Transportation Inc. (ITI). Accordingly, frequency of M2 line is 17 times per hour at
peak times and 10-12 times per hour at normal times. For peak hours, a maximum of 17 trips per hour is a hard
constraint which cannot be exceeded because of signalization problems. For the non-peak hours, we considered
three different scenarios: 0(low), 3(medium) or 5(high) additional trips per hour.

0,6 0,6

0,5 0,5

0,4 0,4

0,3 0,3

0,2 0,2

0,1 0,1

0 0

Figure 4 - Level of discomfort for M2 line on a typical holiday Figure 5 - Level of discomfort for M2 line on a typical workday

Findings are illustrated in Figures 4 and 5.We observed that, since the capacity of the M2 metro line is never
exceeded either in holidays or workdays, the impact of additional trips are minimal. Yet, the number of trips cannot
be decreased more, because the capacity in particular busy stations are exceeded.
T1-Tram line has 31 stations over a line length of 18.5 km. Vehicles run 24 times per hour at peak hours,
occasionally with additional trips, and 9 to 12 times per hour at non-peak hours. The additional trips cover only a
small, but very busy portion of the full line. We analyzed again three scenarios for T1 line by considering 0(low), 12
(medium) and 15 (high) additional trips per hour.
82452 Şükrü
İmre, Ş., İmre et Transportation
Çelebi,D./ al. / Transportation Research
Research Procedia
Procedia 25C (2017)
00 (2017) 2445–2453

3,00 3,00

2,50 2,50

2,00 2,00

1,50 1,50

1,00 1,00

0,50 0,50

0,00 0,00

Figure 6 - Level of discomfort for T1 line on a typical holiday Figure 7 - Level of discomfort for T1 line on a typical workday

Busiest line of the three studied, T1 line acquires the highest benefit from the additional trips. As figures 6 and 7
illustrate, additional trips decreases the average level of discomfort significantly, particularly for the workdays.
Moreover, since T1 line essentially connects the top touristic attractions in İstanbul, the crowd level on the holidays
are generally high. Additional 15 trips per hour substantially decrease the discomfort level, yet such an increase in
trip frequencies is difficult due to traffic related constraints on the line.

6. Findings

In this study we developed a composite index that may be used to quantify the perception of comfort in public
transport networks. This index is helpful to understand the passengers’ choice of transport mode in different hours of
the day, and can be used to predict passenger behavior in public transport usage. It may accordingly be used as a
tool to better plan and operate transportation networks. The index may also useful for comparing the comfort of
various transportation modes and even benchmarking the public transport performance of different cities.
Our numerical example shows that comfort level of public transport systems can be highly variable, depending
on number of factors, particularly the crowd density in-vehicles during peak hours. When the level of discomfort is
higher than the passengers’ acceptable level, the private car usage may become more attractive than public transport
because of its convenience and comfort. Yet, convenience of the transport mode doesn’t necessarily imply the
choice of passengers. Some studies show that private car outperforms public transport not only because of its
comfort, but also because it represents cultural and psychological values, a status symbol and driving is pleasurable
(Steg, 2003). Nevertheless, people can be persuaded to travel by public transport more often by emphasizing the
benefits of collective interests, such as environmental qualities and urban quality of life.


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