On agent-based modeling: Multidimensional travel behavioral theory, procedural models and simulation-based applications

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link





This dissertation proposes a theoretical framework to modeling multidimensional travel behavior based on artificially intelligent agents, search theory, procedural (dynamic) models, and bounded rationality. For decades, despite the number of heuristic explanations for different results, the fact that "almost no mathematical theory exists which explains the results of the simulations" remains as one of the large drawbacks of agent-based computational process approach. This is partly the side effect of its special feature that "no analytical functions are required". Among the rapidly growing literature devoted to the departure from rational behavior assumptions, this dissertation makes effort to embed a sound theoretical foundation for computational process approach and agent-based microsimulations for transportation system modeling and analyses. The theoretical contribution is three-fold: (1) It theorizes multidimensional knowledge updating, search start/stopping criteria, and search/decision heuristics. These components are formulated or empirically modeled and integrated in a unified and coherent approach. (2) Procedural and dynamic agent-based decision-making is modeled. Within the model, agents make decisions. They also make decisions on how and when to make those decisions. (3) Replace conventional user equilibrium with a dynamic behavioral user equilibrium (BUE). Search start/stop criteria is defined in the way that the modeling process should eventually lead to a steady state that is structurally different to user equilibrium (UE) or dynamic user equilibrium (DUE). The theory is supported by empirical observations and the derived quantitative models are tested by agent-based simulation on a demonstration network. The model in its current form incorporates short-term behavioral dimensions: travel mode, departure time, pre-trip routing, and en-route diversion. Based on research needs and data availability, other dimensions can be added to the framework. The proposed model is successfully integrated with a dynamic traffic simulator (i.e. DTALite, a light-weight dynamic traffic assignment and simulation engine) and then applied to a mid-size study area in White Flint, Maryland. Results obtained from the integration corroborate the behavioral richness, computational efficiency, and convergence property of the proposed theoretical framework. The model is then applied to a number of applications in transportation planning, operations, and optimization, which highlights the capabilities of the proposed theory in estimating rich behavioral dynamics and the potential of large-scale implementation. Future research should experiment the integration with activity-based models, land-use development, energy consumption estimators, etc. to fully develop the potential of the agent-based model.