In this paper, we propose and analyze an online, decentralized policy for dispatching vehicles in a multiline public transit system. In the policy, vehicles arriving at a terminal station are assigned to the lines starting at the station in a round-robin fashion. Departure times are selected to minimize deviations from a certain target headway. We prove that this policy is self-organizing: given that there is a sufficient number of available vehicles, a timetable spontaneously emerges that meets the target headway of every line. Moreover, in case one of the vehicles breaks down, the remaining vehicles automatically redistribute over the network to re-establish such a timetable. We present both theoretical and numerical results on the time until a stable state is reached and on how quickly the system recovers after the breakdown of a vehicle. These promising results suggest that our self-organizing policy could be useful in situations where centralized dispatching is impractical or simply impossible due to an abundance of disruptions or the absence of information systems.
Econometric Institute Research Papers
Department of Technology and Operations Management

van Lieshout, R.N, Bouman, P.C, van den Akker, M, & Huisman, D. (2020). A Self-Organizing Policy for Vehicle Dispatching in Public Transit Systems with Multiple Lines. Econometric Institute Research Papers. Retrieved from