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Multi-agent simulation for planning and designing new shared mobility services

Limiting private cars’ use while promoting sustainable modes of transport is one of the main challenges of urban transport planning. In this context, characterized by scarce resources and increasing demand for mobility, Demand Responsive Shared Transport (DRST) services can bridge the gap between shared low-quality public transport and unsustainable individual private transport. Taking advantage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), they can supply transport solutions ranging from flexible transit to ride sharing services, providing real-time “on demand” mobility through fleets of vehicles shared by different passengers. The optimal design of a DRST service requires a trade-off among efficiency (from the operators’ point of view), service quality (from the users’ point of view) and sustainability (from the community’s point of view).

In this paper, an agent-based model (ABM) fed with GIS data is used to explore different system configurations of a specific type of DRST service, i.e. flexible transit, and to estimate the transport demand and supply variables that make the service feasible and convenient. The model reproduces a mixed fixed/flexible route transit service with different fleet size and vehicle capacity in the city of Ragusa (Italy) with the aim to: (i) make a first test of the ABM model with GIS-based demand and road network models; (ii) explore different vehicle dispatching strategies; (iii) find appropriate indicators to monitor the service quality and efficiency.

Simulation results show the impact of fleet composition and route choice strategy on the system performance. In particular, they show an optimal range of operating vehicles that minimizes a total unit cost indicator, accounting both for passenger travel time and vehicle operation cost. By reproducing the microinteraction between demand and supply agents (i.e. passengers and vehicles), it is possible to monitor the macroscopic behaviour of the system, and derive useful suggestions for the correct planning, management and optimization of DRST services.


G. Inturri, […] A. Rapisarda, et al., Multi-agent simulation for planning and designing new shared mobility services, Research in Transportation Economics 73 (2019) 34-44

Second IG-Nobel Prize for Andrea Rapisarda, CSH External Faculty

Andrea Rapisarda

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