Choice of mode of transport for long-distance trips: Solving the problem of sparse data

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

ridership - modelling


multimodal transport corridor, choice-modelling, data collection, sample optimisation


Transport planning is usually based on models’ forecasts, but the reliability of their outputs depends so much on the quality of input-data they are fed with. Discrete-choice models are used to characterise travellers’ behaviour in choosing their transport mode. Their calibration process is usually based on data stemming from household survey campaigns. However, the modelling in multimodal and intermodal transport on an interurban level is far more complicated and costly than in the case of an urban area. An alternative way to reduce costs is achieved by designing a choice-based sampling strategy where household surveys are replaced by specific surveys for each transport mode. This strategy generates a non-random sample that has to be treated correctly during the estimation process. In principle, the sample does not represent population market quotas for each different transport option. Moreover, as a result of both physical and functional constraints, the survey period cannot cover all origin–destination pairs (O–D pairs) in an optimal way and, consequently, the above-mentioned bias also affects each different individual O–D pair or, at least, group of pairs. In order to overcome this problem, this study presents a new procedure derived from the introduction of maximum likelihood estimators. These estimators assume the original mode options in terms of population quotas and in terms of O–D groups of pairs. The procedure is based on the optimisation of an objective-function to correct the above-mentioned bias in a way similar to the estimators of samples based on different choice options. The method named DWELT estimates the parameters corresponding to each explanatory variable using mode shares for each O–D pair or group of pairs. DWELT has been successfully validated in the case study of the Madrid–Barcelona interurban corridor in Spain. This result allows to achieve a more flexible cheaper survey procedure for interurban transport planning activities. Therefore transport policy strategies could be better designed and tested with lower costs.


Permission to publish abstract given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


Transportation Research Part A Home Page: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/09658564