Tweets on the road

PLoS One. 2014 Aug 20;9(8):e105407. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105407. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

The pervasiveness of mobile devices, which is increasing daily, is generating a vast amount of geo-located data allowing us to gain further insights into human behaviors. In particular, this new technology enables users to communicate through mobile social media applications, such as Twitter, anytime and anywhere. Thus, geo-located tweets offer the possibility to carry out in-depth studies on human mobility. In this paper, we study the use of Twitter in transportation by identifying tweets posted from roads and rails in Europe between September 2012 and November 2013. We compute the percentage of highway and railway segments covered by tweets in 39 countries. The coverages are very different from country to country and their variability can be partially explained by differences in Twitter penetration rates. Still, some of these differences might be related to cultural factors regarding mobility habits and interacting socially online. Analyzing particular road sectors, our results show a positive correlation between the number of tweets on the road and the Average Annual Daily Traffic on highways in France and in the UK. Transport modality can be studied with these data as well, for which we discover very heterogeneous usage patterns across the continent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Europe
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Motor Vehicles / statistics & numerical data*

Grant support

Partial financial support has been received from the Spanish Ministry of Economy (MINECO) and FEDER (EU) under projects MODASS (FIS2011-24785) and INTENSE@COSYP (FIS2012-30634), and from the EU Commission through projects EUNOIA, LASAGNE and INSIGHT. ML acknowledges funding from the Conselleria d'Educacio, Cultura i Universitats of the Government of the Balearic Islands and JJR from the Ramon y Cajal program of MINECO. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.