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Self-organization leads to supraoptimal performance in public transportation systems

Abstract: The performance of public transportation systems affects a large part of the population. Current theory assumes that passengers are served optimally when vehicles arrive at stations with regular intervals. In this paper, it is shown that self-organization can improve the performance of public transportation systems beyond the theoretical optimum by responding adaptively to local conditions. This is possible because of a “slower-is-faster” effect, where passengers wait more time at stations but total travel times are reduced. The proposed self-organizing method uses “antipheromones” to regulate headways, which are inspired by the stigmergy (communication via environment) of some ant colonies.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0021469