Understanding and modelling route choice behaviour is central to predicting the formation and propagation of urban road congestion. Yet within conventional literature disagreements persist around the nature of route choice behaviour, and how it should be modelled. In this paper, both the shortest path and anchor-based perspectives on route choice behaviour are explored through an empirical analysis of nearly 700,000 minicab routes across London, United Kingdom. In the first set of analyses, the degree of similarity between observed routes and possible shortest paths is established. Shortest paths demonstrate poor performance in predicting both observed route choice and characteristics. The second stage of analysis explores the influence of specific urban features, named anchors, in route choice. These analyses show that certain features attract more route choices than would be expected were individuals choosing route based on cost minimisation alone. Instead, the results indicate that major urban features form the basis of route choice planning – being selected disproportionately more often, and causing asymmetry in route choice volumes by direction of travel. At a finer scale, decisions made at minor road features are furthermore demonstrated to influence routing patterns. The results indicate a need to revisit the basis of how routes are modelled, shifting from the shortest path perspective to a mechanism structured around urban features. In concluding, the main trends are synthesised within an initial framework for route choice modelling, and presents potential extensions of this research.
Document type: Article
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