Poster from Transportation Research Board 2011

Algorithm for finding optimal paths in a public transit network with
Real-Time Data
I want to get from here
We introduce a new algorithm
which overcomes the problem of
computing shortest paths in a
transit network which pulls realtime data from a third-party
Application Programming
Interface (API)
on buses and trains
with real-time information
and I want directions FAST! (3 sec on my mobile phone)
To Here
Our first thought was: let’s build a graph of the transit network (bus stops as nodes, and real-time travel times as links) and run Djikstra’s!
Problem: We can’t retrieve all link travel times from the real-time API
at once *there are restrictions on how often programs can hit the API. Retrieving travel times for all links would take > 1 min for large
We need information from third party sources
transit agencies
route configurations
We have to intelligently retrieve only a subset of estimated arrivals
at particular bus stops.
locations of bus stops
sequence of stops visited
estimated arrival to bus stop
More accurate predictions for trip time
Better suggestions for alternative routes
Customer Satisfaction
< 1% Less
Real-Time Transit Trip Planner
Schedule-Based Transit Trip Planner
Percentage which Transit Trip
Planners under-estimate
actual trip time
How do we determine these bus stops? First, consider these observations:
1. If the origin and destination are not served by the same bus route, humans intuitively plan trips by finding transfer points to connect between
bus routes.
2. The set of feasible paths from any bus stop along Route X to any bus stop along Route Y is a subset of all feasible paths from the origin
station of Route X to the terminus station of Route Y.
Based on these observations, build a lookup table for all possible paths from the origin of every bus route to the terminus of every
other bus route.
real-time arrival API
Why real-time data in trip planning?
Jariyasunant et al, (2010) “Mobile Transit Trip
Planning with Real-Time Data” Proceedings of
Transportation Research Board 2010.
48% Much more
Change in satisfaction of public transit
Ferris, B., Watkins, K., and Borning, A. (2010)
"OneBusAway: Results from Providing Real-Time
Arrival Information for Public Transit." Proceedings of
CHI 2010.
Algorithm Flowchart
Preparing Data
Real-Time API
GTFS files
Extract route, direction, stop, latitude, longitude,
sequence #, and agency
Link Bus Stops with Real-Time feed
Refine Route Configurations
Each stop must be linked to a real-time URL by an unique stopcode
See Figure 4 in paper
Create Route Configurations
Pre-computation of Lookup Tables
Build Geolocation Lookup Table
Store a list of bus stops with their latitude and longitude
Geo-Location Database
Build Service-Time Lookup Table
Find Transfer Points and Routes
Store a list of the hours of the day each bus route
is running
List of pairs of stops within a reasonable transfer
distance (is arbitrarily chosen at half a mile)
Service-Time Database
Build Path Lookup Table
Store all paths within 4 transfers the origin stop of every bus route to the terminus
of every bus route in each direction. Exclude paths that take two transfers more
than any existing feasible paths between an O-D.
Path Lookup Database
Real-Time Origin-Destination Query
Retrieve Pre-computed Paths
not all paths are physically possible to be made
Retrieve Real-Time Information From API and sort routes by shortest travel time
≈0.3 secs
How do we measure the performance of
the algorithm?
By measuring the response time < 3 seconds
The response time depends on the number of
possible paths (from Origin to Destination) retrieved
from the path lookup database which then affects the
number of bus stop predictions needed from the realtime API
≈0.1 secs
Our Experiment: 770,000 tests in 77 different cities
1) Response time
2) Number of paths pulled
from lookup table
3) Number of requests
sent to real-time API
Number of bus stop predictions
needed from real-time API
99% Percentile: 82 queries. 50% Percentile: 26 queries
Size of
table for
This example:
3 paths
8 arrival requests
Repeat x10000 for each
The two graphs to the left and right represent 10,000 Simulations
for Washington D.C.
The performance of the algorithm is affected most by the time to query
the real-time API, the bottleneck. The number of queries increases with
the amount of distance people are willing to catch a bus.
Jerald Jariyasunant, Eric Mai, Raja Sengupta. U.C. Berkeley
5 shortest paths
The size of the lookup table increases polynomially as the
number of routes served by a transit agency grows
63 million pre-computed
1.2 GB needed to store in
312 routes served
194,000 unique bus
stop/route-direction pairs
The size of the bubbles
represents the number of total
bus stops in the transit network
Number of routes served
*Washington D.C. was the largest network (number of transit routes operated) route configuration files
were available for, and therefore was tested to show the algorithm working in the worst-case scenario
Result of 10,000 simulations in Washington D.C.
Real-Time API
Does it scale?
Pick random origin & destination in a city,
compute directions and record:
Number of possible paths (x100)
99% Percentile: 1900 paths. 50% Percentile: 224 paths
≈1.5 secs
Bus stop predictions needed from real-time API for different walking
Frequency (out of 10,0000)
≈0.1 secs
Calculate real-time travel times
Total # of paths in lookup table
look up running transit routes within ½ mile
Remove Irrelevant Paths
Find Nearest Stops
Predictions needed

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