Four-step travel model

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The four-step travel model is a ubiquitous framework for determining transportation forecasts that goes back to the 1950.

The four steps are described as follows:[1]

  • Trip generation determines the frequency of origins or destinations of trips in each zone by trip purpose, as a function of land uses and household demographics, and other socio-economic factors.
  • Trip distribution matches origins with destinations, often using a gravity model function, equivalent to an entropy maximizing model. Older models include the fratar model.
  • Mode choice computes the proportion of trips between each origin and destination that use a particular transportation mode. (This modal model may be of the logit form, developed by Nobel Prize winner Daniel McFadden.)
  • Route assignment allocates trips between an origin and destination by a particular mode to a route. Often (for highway route assignment) Wardrop's principle of user equilibrium is applied (equivalent to a Nash equilibrium), wherein each driver (or group) chooses the shortest (travel time) path, subject to every other driver doing the same. The difficulty is that travel times are a function of demand, while demand is a function of travel time, the so-called bi-level problem. Another approach is to use the Stackelberg competition model, where users ("followers") respond to the actions of a "leader", in this case for example a traffic manager. This leader anticipates on the response of the followers.