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Mathematical System Helps to Cut Bus Journey Times

By AlphaGalileo

March 20, 2009

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Researchers from the University of Burgos (UBU) have used heuristic algorithms and the "taboo search" method to improve bus service in Burgos, Spain. The approach enables their system to handle imprecise data and to only look for solutions that have not been developed. "For example, when searching for solutions, if a bus has just left a particular stop, this stop is then marked as 'taboo' and it cannot be included as part of that route again for a certain number of iterations [repetitions]," says Joaquin A. Pacheco, coordinator of UBU's Research Group on Metaheuristic Techniques. Slight modifications to current bus lines can be made as a result of the taboo search.

The new system lowers the time spent waiting at Burgos bus stops from 20 to 17 minutes, and reduces bus journey times from 16 to 13.5 minutes. "When we face a problem of this kind, we can use an exact method, which gives us an optimal solution but takes a long time to calculate — or we can use an approximate or heuristic technique, which provides a good solution with less calculation time," Pacheco says.

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