A portfolio theory of route choice

David Levinson, Shanjiang Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Although many individual route choice models have been proposed to incorporate travel time variability as a decision factor, they are typically still deterministic in the sense that the optimal strategy requires choosing one particular route that maximizes utility. In contrast, this study introduces an individual route choice model where choosing a portfolio of routes instead of a single route is the best strategy for a rational traveler who cares about both journey time and lateness when facing stochastic network conditions. The proposed model is compared with UE and SUE models and the difference in both behavioral foundation and model characteristics is highlighted. A numerical example is introduced to demonstrate how such model can be used in traffic assignment problem. The model is then tested with GPS data collected in metropolitan Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Our data suggest there is no single dominant route (defined here as a route with the shortest travel time for a 15. day period) in 18% of cases when links travel times are correlated. This paper demonstrates that choosing a portfolio of routes could be the rational choice of a traveler who wants to optimize route decisions under variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-243
Number of pages12
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0825768 , BRIDGE: Behavioral Response to the I-35W Disruption: Gauging Equilibration; Minnesota Department of Transportation project Traffic Flow and Road User Impacts of the Collapse of the I-35W Bridge over the Mississippi River; Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium for the project Value of Reliability; and the University of Minnesota Metropolitan Consortium. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the International Symposium on Transportation Network Reliability held in Minneapolis in 2010, audience members are thanked for their comments. We would also like to thank Henry Liu. Kathleen Harder, John Bloomfield, Randy Guensler, and Shu Hong. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium or others.


  • Route choice
  • Route portfolio
  • Travel behavior
  • Travel time reliability


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