System optimum and pricing for the day-long commute with distributed demand, autos and transit

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

ridership - commuting, operations - reliability, economics - value of time, economics - appraisal/evaluation, mode - car, mode - mass transit


Multi-modal transportation, Urban transportation, Multi-modal pricing, Macroscopic urban modeling


The day-long system optimum (SO) commute for an urban area served by auto and transit is modeled as an auto bottleneck with a capacitated transit bypass. A public agency manages the system’s capacities optimally. Commuters are identical except for the times at which they wish to complete their morning trips and start their evening trips, which are given by an arbitrary joint distribution. They value unpunctuality – their lateness or earliness relative to their wish times – with a common penalty function. They must use the same mode for both trips. Commuters are assigned personalized mode and travel start times that collectively minimize society’s generalized cost for the whole day. This includes unpunctuality penalties, queuing delays, travel times and out-of-pocket costs for users, as well as travel supply costs and externalities for society.

It is shown that in a SO solution there can be no queuing and that the set of SO solutions forms a convex set. Furthermore, if the schedule penalty that users suffer due to unpunctuality is separable into morning and evening components, then the set of commuters traveling by the same mode arrive at work and depart from work in the order of their wishes. These orders are in general different in the morning and the evening. It is also shown that there always is a SO solution in which users are at all times, and on both modes, either punctual or flowing at capacity. These problem properties are used to identify search methods, both, for SO solutions and for time-dependent tolls and transit fares that preserve the solutions as Nash equilibriums. In every case studied, these prices exist. They must peak concurrently for the two modes in both periods.

In special cases involving only one mode, only one period or concentrated demand the solution to the complete problem decomposes by period conditional on the number of transit users, and this facilitates the solution. In these cases the day-long SO cost is the sum of the SO costs for the two peaks considered separately. However, this is not true in general – the solution obtained by combining the two single-period solutions can be infeasible. When this happens, the optimum day-long cost will exceed the sum of the single-period costs. The discrepancy is about 40% of the total schedule penalty for an example representing a large city. Thus, to develop realistic policies the day-long problem must be addressed head on. An approximate method that yields closed form formulas for the case with uniformly distributed wishes is presented.


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


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