Complexity in Public Transport, in which I wrote my PhD Thesis

A crowded train full of people, and an empty train delivered from the sky with a nice red ribbon

I conducted my PhD within the NWO funded project Complexity in Public Transport (ComPuTr).

The principal investigator of this project was Leo Kroon. In the project I had a close collaboration with Evelien van der Hurk who was the other PhD student on this project. Leo Kroon and Peter Vervest were our daily supervisors. Other partners involved were Gábor Maróti, Ting Li and Kai Nagel. Evelien and I were also welcome for a research internship at Netherlands Railways (NS).

A snapshot of our original project website can still be accessed via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

About the Project

The goal of the research project was to study the complexity of passenger behavior in public transport, especially the passengers’ sensitivity to strategic modifications and to real-time disturbances of the public transport system. We also aimed to examine how the resulting understanding can be used to achieve a win-win result for the passengers and for the Public Transport Operators (PTOs), both in the planning stage and in disturbed real-time operations. In the project we worked with data from smart cards and considered how this can lead to opportunities to understand passenger behavior in public transport in far more precision than previously possible.

The multi-disciplinary research project is carried out by the Rotterdam School of Management of Erasmus University (RSM/EUR) together with Netherlands Railways (NS). It continued previous joint research of RSM/EUR and NS on revenue management and on mathematical system optimization. Important complexity aspects of this research project were:

  1. The micro-macro view: from individual passenger behavior to aggregated passenger flows;
  2. The understanding of public transport systems as complex networks; and
  3. The predictability of passenger behavior and passenger flows.

The Complexity in Public Transport (ComPuTr) project was one of the projects in the larger intiative of Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) Complexity projects that were focussed on the value of Complexity Theory in Practice. More information about this initiative can be found at a snapshot of the NWO complexity website on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

Research output

The main output of my part of the project, which focused on crowding and revenue management in public transport, is as follows:

The main output of Evelien’s part of the project, which focused on disruption management, is as follows:

Furthermore, a number of conference papers and abstracts can be found on the Papers and Materials section on our old project website.