Simulation-Based Comparison of Holding Strategies for a Multibranch Light Rail Service

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, mode - tram/light rail, operations - capacity, operations - scheduling, operations - performance, technology - intelligent transport systems


Light rail, capacity, mixed-traffic, real-time control, holding strategies


Light rail transit services face many operational challenges, such as capacity constraints, mixed-traffic interference, and branch junctions. The service plans developed for these lines typically specify a precise schedule for each vehicle. Running time and demand variability, special events, and incidents make it challenging to adhere to schedules. Operators can enact real-time control actions to mitigate delays. This research compared the effectiveness of schedule- and headway-based holding strategies applied en route and at terminals (i.e., dispatching) on a simulation model of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Green Line, a four-branch light rail line. The effects of control point placement at terminals, along branches, along a central trunk, and in combinations of these three were studied, as were the effects of limiting holding at midroute stations. Holding strategies were compared on the basis of service and passenger-oriented performance. Headway-based holding was found to be a more effective method for ensuring that passengers experienced reasonable wait times within scheduled headways. Holding at terminals appeared to be the most beneficial to passengers; additional holding along the branches and limited holding along the trunk were shown to enhance these benefits. Holding only within the trunk of a multibranch service worsened service because of blockages from held trains.


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