Dynamic bus holding strategies for schedule reliability: Optimal linear control and performance analysis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - performance, operations - reliability, mode - bus, operations - frequency


Bus bunching, Bus schedule reliability, Headway variance, Commercial speed, Dynamic holding, Control method


As is well known, bus systems are naturally unstable. Without control, buses on a single line tend to bunch, reducing their punctuality in meeting a schedule. Although conventional schedule-based strategies that hold buses at control points can alleviate this problem these methods require too much slack, which slows buses. This delays on-board passengers and increases operating costs.It is shown that dynamic holding strategies based on headways alone cannot help buses adhere to a schedule. Therefore, a family of dynamic holding strategies that use bus arrival deviations from a virtual schedule at the control points is proposed. The virtual schedule is introduced whether the system is run with a published schedule or not. It is shown that with this approach, buses can both closely adhere to a published schedule and maintain regular headways without too much slack.

A one-parameter version of the method can be optimized in closed form. This simple method is shown to be near-optimal. To put it in practice, the only data needed in real time are the arrival times of the current bus and the preceding bus at the control point relative to the virtual schedule. The simple method was found to require about 40% less slack than the conventional schedule-based method. When used only to regulate headways it outperforms headway-based methods.


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


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