Understanding taxi travel patterns

Hua Cai, Xiaowei Zhan, Ji Zhu, Xiaoping Jia, Anthony S F Chiu, Ming Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Taxis play important roles in modern urban transportation systems, especially in mega cities. While providing necessary amenities, taxis also significantly contribute to traffic congestion, urban energy consumption, and air pollution. Understanding the travel patterns of taxis is thus important for addressing many urban sustainability challenges. Previous research has primarily focused on examining the statistical properties of passenger trips, which include only taxi trips occupied with passengers. However, unoccupied trips are also important for urban sustainability issues because they represent potential opportunities to improve the efficiency of the transportation system. Therefore, we need to understand the travel patterns of taxis as an integrated system, instead of focusing only on the occupied trips. In this study we examine GPS trajectory data of 11,880 taxis in Beijing, China for a period of three weeks. Our results show that taxi travel patterns share similar traits with travel patterns of individuals but also exhibit differences. Trip displacement distribution of taxi travels is statistically greater than the exponential distribution and smaller than the truncated power-law distribution. The distribution of short trips (less than 30 miles) can be best fitted with power-law while long trips follow exponential decay. We use radius of gyration to characterize individual taxi's travel distance and find that it does not follow a truncated power-law as observed in previous studies. Spatial and temporal regularities exist in taxi travels. However, with increasing spatial coverage, taxi trips can exhibit dual high probability density centers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)590-597
Number of pages8
JournalPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Human mobility dynamics
  • Taxi travel pattern
  • Vehicle trajectory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding taxi travel patterns'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this