Do people use the shortest path? An empirical test of wardrop's first principle

Shanjiang Zhu, David Levinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Most recent route choice models, following either the random utility maximization or rulebased paradigm, require explicit enumeration of feasible routes. The quality of model estimation and prediction is sensitive to the appropriateness of the consideration set. However, few empirical studies of revealed route characteristics have been reported in the literature. This study evaluates the widely applied shortest path assumption by evaluating routes followed by residents of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Accurate Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographic Information System (GIS) data were employed to reveal routes people used over an eight to thirteen week period. Most people did not choose the shortest path. Using three weeks of that data, we find that current route choice set generation algorithms do not reveal the majority of paths that individuals took. Findings from this study may guide future efforts in building better route choice models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0134322
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 12 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study has been reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB Code Number 0806S34983) of the University of Minnesota. All participants have been informed about the study, and been asked to read and sign the consent form before their participation. 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. No additional external funding received for this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Zhu, Levinson.


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