An N-path user equilibrium for transportation networks

Dung Ying Lin, Pak Weng Leong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The traditional trip-based approach to transportation modeling has been employed for the past decade. The last step of the trip-based modeling approach is traffic assignment, which has been typically formulated as a user equilibrium (UE) problem. In the conventional perspective, the definition of UE traffic assignment is the condition that no road user can unilaterally change routes to reduce their travel time. An equivalent definition is that the travel times of all the used paths between any given origin-destination pair are equal and less than those of the unused paths. The underlying assumption of the UE definition is that road users have full information on the available transportation paths and can potentially use any path if the currently used path is overly congested. However, a more practical scenario is that each road user has a limited path set within which she/he can choose routes from. In this new scenario, we call the resulting user equilibrium an N-path user equilibrium (NPUE), in which each road user has only N paths to select from when making route choices in the network. We introduce a new formulation of the NPUE and derive optimality conditions based on this formulation. Different from traditional modeling framework, the constraints of the proposed model are of linear form, which makes it possible to solve the problem with conventional convex programming techniques. We also show that the traditional UE is a special case of an NPUE and prove the uniqueness of the resulting flow pattern of the NPUE. To efficiently solve this problem, we devise path-based and link-based solution algorithms. The proposed solution algorithms are empirically applied to networks of various sizes to examine the impact of constrained user path sets. Numerical results demonstrate that NPUE results can differ significantly from UE results depending on the number of paths available to road users. In addition, we observed an interesting phenomenon, where increasing the number of paths available to road users can sometimes decrease the overall system performance due to their selfish routing behaviors. This paradox demonstrates that network information should be provided with caution, as such information can do more harm than good in certain transportation systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-682
Number of pages16
JournalApplied Mathematical Modelling
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jan 15

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Applied Mathematics


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