The end-user benefits of smartphone transit apps: a systematic literature review

Jiahe Bian, Wei Li, Sinan Zhong, Chanam Lee, Margaret Foster, Xinyue Ye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Transit apps are cost-efficient strategies to facilitate transit use. This study is the first systematic review that synthesises the literature on these apps’ end-user benefits. We identified limitations in the existing knowledge in terms of study methods, population, and scopes. This review offers insights to guide researchers and policymakers to unlock the potential of transit apps in promoting the use and experience of public transit. We conducted the literature searches in August 2020, covering studies published between 2010 and 2020 from TRID, Compendex, Business Source Ultimate Ebsco, and Acad Search Ultimate Ebsco. Articles were screened and reviewed based on the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. In total, 13 out of 3,812 articles met our pre-specified eligibility criteria. We identified key user benefits in three domains: perception and psychological changes, time savings on trips, and travel behaviour changes. These studies found that smartphone transit apps may improve the perceived reliability of transit services, increase perceived safety, reduce anxiety while waiting, and build a positive image of transit. Also, transit apps could help users reduce wait time at transit stops. Studies further reported that smartphone transit apps have the potential to boost ridership. After critically assessing the articles, we recommended future studies to improve study designs, adjust study populations, and expand study scopes. First, future studies about travel behaviour impacts would need to adopt more rigorous study designs and methods. Second, more studies about infrequent riders and non-riders are needed. Third, current studies have not paid enough attention to the important subgroup of captive riders, such as riders in rural areas who rely on infrequent and unreliable transit services. Fourth, more empirical evidence is needed to quantify the impacts of public sector transit apps. Trip planning and mobile ticketing functions of transit apps are overlooked. Fifth, the established theoretical framework about travel behaviours and emerging technologies could serve as solid theoretical bases and would need to be integrated into future research designs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-101
Number of pages20
JournalTransport Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Transportation


  • Public transit
  • comprehensive literature review
  • rider experience
  • ridership
  • smartphone apps
  • transit apps


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