Planning Problems in Public Transit

Please always quote using this URN: urn:nbn:de:0297-zib-11252
  • Every day, millions of people are transported by buses, trains, and airplanes in Germany. Public transit (PT) is of major importance for the quality of life of individuals as well as the productivity of entire regions. Quality and efficiency of PT systems depend on the political framework (state-run, market oriented) and the suitability of the infrastructure (railway tracks, airport locations), the existing level of service (timetable, flight schedule), the use of adequate technologies (information, control, and booking systems), and the best possible deployment of equipment and resources (energy, vehicles, crews). The decision, planning, and optimization problems arising in this context are often gigantic and “scream” for mathematical support because of their complexity. This article sketches the state and the relevance of mathematics in planning and operating public transit, describes today’s challenges, and suggests a number of innovative actions. The current contribution of mathematics to public transit is — depending on the transportation mode — of varying depth. Air traffic is already well supported by mathematics. Bus traffic made significant advances in recent years, while rail traffic still bears significant opportunities for improvements. In all areas of public transit, the existing potentials are far from being exhausted. For some PT problems, such as vehicle and crew scheduling in bus and air traffic, excellent mathematical tools are not only available, but used in many places. In other areas, such as rolling stock rostering in rail traffic, the performance of the existing mathematical algorithms is not yet sufficient. Some topics are essentially untouched from a mathematical point of view; e.g., there are (except for air traffic) no network design or fare planning models of practical relevance. PT infrastructure construction is essentially devoid of mathematics, even though enormous capital investments are made in this area. These problems lead to questions that can only be tackled by engineers, economists, politicians, and mathematicians in a joint effort. Among other things, the authors propose to investigate two specific topics, which can be addressed at short notice, are of fundamental importance not only for the area of traffic planning, should lead to a significant improvement in the collaboration of all involved parties, and, if successful, will be of real value for companies and customers: • discrete optimal control: real-time re-planning of traffic systems in case of disruptions, • model integration: service design in bus and rail traffic. Work on these topics in interdisciplinary research projects could be funded by the German ministry of research and education (BMBF), the German ministry of economics (BMWi), or the German science foundation (DFG).

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Author:Ralf Borndörfer, Martin Grötschel, Ulrich Jaeger
Document Type:ZIB-Report
Tag:diskrete Optimierung ; ganzzahlige Programmierung; öffentlicher Verkehr
discrete optimization ; integer programming; public transit
MSC-Classification:90-XX OPERATIONS RESEARCH, MATHEMATICAL PROGRAMMING / 90Bxx Operations research and management science / 90B06 Transportation, logistics
Date of first Publication:2009/04/14
Series (Serial Number):ZIB-Report (09-13)

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