A Study of Headway Maintenance for Bus Routes: Causes and Effects of "Bus Bunching" in Extensive and Congested Service Areas

Miguel Andres Figliozzi, Portland State University



A healthy and efficient public transit system is indispensable to reduce congestion, emissions, energy consumption, and car dependency in urban areas. The objective of this research is to 1) develop methods to evaluate and visualize bus service reliability for transit agencies in various temporal and spatial aggregation levels; 2) identify the recurrent unreliability trends of bus routes (focusing on high-frequency service periods) and understand their characteristics, causes and effects; and 3) model service times using linear regression models. This research utilized six months of archived automatic vehicle location (AVL) and automatic passenger count (APC) data from a low-performance route (Route 15) of TriMet, the public transit provider in the Portland metropolitan area. Route 15 has experienced difficulties in terms of schedule adherence and headway regularity. This research developed methods to summarize causes of bus bunching. We first determined the frequency of each cause (expressed as percentages) meeting pre-determined thresholds. Next, we performed a sensitivity analysis to demonstrate how cause percentage results change using varying difficulty levels of bus bunching thresholds. Finally, we investigated how cause percentage results vary spatially along different route segments. This research also developed novel ways to summarize and visualize vast amounts of bus route operations data in an insightful and intuitive manner: 1) a route/stop level visualization performance measure framework using color contour diagrams and 2) a dynamic interactive bus monitoring visualization framework based on a Google Maps platform. Visualizations proposed in this study can aid transit agency managers and operators to identify operational problems and better understand how such problems propagate spatially and temporally across routes. Finally, regression models were estimated to understand the key factors impacting dwell and travel times.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
September 30,2011
UTC Grant Cycle:
OTREC 2010
UTC Funding: