The Roads Taken: Theory and Evidence on Route Choice in the wake of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge Collapse and Reconstruction

19249-thumb-400x268-56595Congratulations to soon-to-be Dr. Shanjiang Zhu (September 2010- PhD Civil Engineering) for completing and successfully defending his Ph.D Dissertation -
The Roads Taken: Theory and Evidence on Route Choice in the wake of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge Collapse and Reconstruction He will be joining the University of Maryland, College Park as a post-doc.
Abstract:

Route choice analysis investigates the path travelers follow to implement their travel plan. It is the most frequent, and thus arguably the most important decision travelers make on a daily basis. Long established efforts have been dedicated to a normative model of the route choice decision, while investigations of route choice from a descriptive perspective have been limited. Wardrop’s first principle, or the shortest path assumption, is still widely used in route choice models. Most recent route choice models, following either the random utility maximization or rule-based paradigm, require explicit enumeration of feasible routes. The quality of model estimation and prediction is sensitive to the appropriateness of the consideration set. However, few empirical studies of revealed route characteristics have been reported in the literature. Moreover, factors beyond travel time, such as preferences for travel time reliability, inertia in changing routes, and travel experience that could also have significant impacts on route choice, have not been fully explored and incorporated in route choice modeling. The phenomenon that people use more than one route between the same origin and destination during a period of time is not addressed by conventional route choice models either.
To bridge these gaps, this dissertation systematically evaluates people’s route choice behavior using data collected in the Minneapolis – St. Paul metropolitan area after the I-35W Bridge Collapse. Both aggregate traffic data and individual survey data show gaps between models based on shortest travel time assumption and traffic conditions observed in the field. This study then employs the individual GPS trajectory and GIS maps to systematically evaluate the characteristics of routes people actually use. Merits of route choice set generation algorithms widely used in practice are assessed. The phenomenon of route diversity is clearly revealed through analysis of field data. A route portfolio model is proposed to explain the rationale of choosing a portfolio of routes under uncertainty about network conditions. It is posited that a rule-based model,
comprehensively considering travelers’ characteristics, additional network metrics, and previous travel experience will better replicate observed route choices than the tradi- tional assumption of simply minimizing travel time or travel cost. Findings from this dissertation could also inform other parts of travel demand modeling.

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