Bus-Holding Control Strategies Simulation-Based Evaluation and Guidelines for Implementation

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, place - europe, organisation - performance, operations - reliability, operations - scheduling


bus, Stockholm, bus-holding control strategies


Transit operations involve several inherent sources of uncertainty, including dispatch time from the origin terminal, travel time between stops, and dwell time at stops. Bus-holding control strategies are a prominent method applied by transit operators to improve transit performance and level of service. The common practice is to regulate departures from a limited number of stops by holding buses until their scheduled departure time. An analysis of the performance of a high-frequency bus line in Stockholm, Sweden, based on automatic vehicle location data showed that this control strategy was not effective in improving service regularity along the line. The analysis also indicated that drivers adjusted their speed according to performance objectives. Implications of a control strategy that regulates departures from all stops on the basis of the headways of the preceding bus and the following bus were evaluated with BusMezzo, a transit operations simulation model. The results suggest that this strategy can improve service performance considerably from both passengers' and operator's perspectives. In addition, the strategy implies cooperative operations, as the decisions of each driver are interdependent with other drivers' decisions, and mutual corrections can be made. Difficulties in realizing the benefits of the proposed strategy in practice, such as dispatching from the origin terminal, driver scheduling, and compliance, are discussed. The implications of several practical considerations are assessed by conducting a sensitivity analysis as part of the preparations for a field experiment designed to test the proposed control strategy.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.