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Estimating traveler populations at airport and cruise terminals for population distribution and dynamics


In recent years, uses of high-resolution population distribution databases are increasing steadily for environmental, socioeconomic, public health, and disaster-related research and operations. With the development of daytime population distribution, temporal resolution of such databases has been improved. However, the lack of incorporation of transitional population, namely business and leisure travelers, leaves a significant population unaccounted for within the critical infrastructure networks, such as at transportation hubs. This paper presents two general methodologies for estimating passenger populations in airport and cruise port terminals at a high temporal resolution which can be incorporated into existing population distribution models. The methodologies are geographically scalable and are based on, and demonstrate how, two different transportation hubs with disparate temporal population dynamics can be modeled utilizing publicly available databases including novel data sources of flight activity from the Internet which are updated in near-real time. The airport population estimation model shows great potential for rapid implementation for a large collection of airports on a national scale, and the results suggest reasonable accuracy in the estimated passenger traffic. By incorporating population dynamics at high temporal resolutions into population distribution models, we hope to improve the estimates of populations exposed to or at risk to disasters, thereby improving emergency planning and response, and leading to more informed policy decisions.

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This manuscript has been authored by employees of UT-Battelle, LLC, under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725 with the U.S. Department of Energy. Accordingly, the United States Government retains and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the United States Government retains a non-exclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, worldwide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this manuscript or allows others to do so, for United States Government purposes. The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support for this research from the US Government for the development of LandScan USA model and database. Significant improvement to the manuscript was made possible by critical insights from two anonymous reviewers, and the authors sincerely thank them for their assistance. The assistance of Jessica Moehl with the development of figures and Ashton Brannon with general editing is greatly appreciated.

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Correspondence to Budhendra L. Bhaduri.

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Jochem, W.C., Sims, K., Bright, E.A. et al. Estimating traveler populations at airport and cruise terminals for population distribution and dynamics. Nat Hazards 68, 1325–1342 (2013).

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  • LandScan USA
  • Population distribution and dynamics
  • Transitional population
  • Airport
  • Cruise port
  • Simulation