Solving the "Bus Bunching" Problem

Everyone has seen the phenomenon of "bus bunching" - no matter what the schedule, buses end up clustered together in packs, resulting in some full buses and some empty ones and a long wait for some. Two professors say they have a solution.

John J. Bartholdi III of the Supply Chain and Logistics Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Donald D. Eisenstein of the Booth School of Business at The University of Chicago, explain that maintaining headways between buses is very challenging.

From the report abstract: "Most bus systems try to achieve this by adherence to a schedule; but this is undermined by the tendency of headways to collapse, so that buses travel in bunches.

To counter this, we propose a new method of coördinating buses. Our method abandons the idea of a schedule and even any a priori target headway. Under our scheme headways are dynamically self-equalizing and the natural headway of the system tends to emerge spontaneously."

Bartholdi and Eisenstein say that they have tested their system successfully in Atlanta.

Full Story: A self-coordinating bus route to resist bus bunching



Interesting, but...

Denver's very-well managed RTD system has managed to avoid bunching for decades courtesy of ongoing attention to matching posted schedules/target headways to real-word diurnal and seasonal roadway and congestion conditions, and pro-active dispatching to handle anomalies.

One critical problem with no-schedule plans is human nature - sadly, there are always a few drivers who will try to game such systems to maximize layovers, or figure the best way to handle 'stressin' is to pull over (off-route) with a bucket of KFC and leave it to the system to spontaneously emerge a headway that lets them idle out a cycle....

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