Induced model complexity

When I was a naive young modeler, running the Travel and Travel/2 models for the Montgomery County Planning Departments, regional travel demand models took up to 24 hours to run in full form. Talking with modelers today, it seems models still take on the order of 24 hours to run. Why?

I posit “Induced Complexity.” When we build a road, we induce demand, travelers who were previously priced off the road due to congestion or extra travel time now switch times of day, routes, modes, and destinations to take advantage of the capacity, and new development is pursued. Similarly, when we get a bigger computer, we can either use it to run the same models faster, or to run more complicated models. It seems the profession leans to the latter. The complexity is in terms of the number of Transportation Analysis Zones, or in the number of Times of Day, or in the number of model components that are considered, or the degree of precision required in equilibrium.

This induced complexity is real, and like induced demand is not necessarily a bad thing (if the complexity improves accuracy, it is a good thing), but it is a thing we should all be cognizant of.