The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Cognitive cost in route choice models

TitleCognitive cost in route choice models
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsGao S, Frejinger E, Ben-Akiva ME
JournalTransportation Research Part A
Start Page916
Keywordsbounded rationality, cognitive cost, information search, latent class, Route choice

Real-time traffic information is increasingly available to support route choice decisions by reducing the travel time uncertainty. However it is likely that a traveler cannot assess all available information on all alternative routes due to time constraints and limited cognitive capacity. This paper presents a model that is consistent with a general network topology and can potentially be estimated based on revealed preference data. It explicitly takes into account the information acquisition and the subsequent path choice. The decision to acquire information is assumed to be based on the cognitive cost involved in the search and the expected benefit defined as the expected increase in utility after the search. A latent class model is proposed, where the decision to search or not to search and the depth of the search are latent and only the final path choices are observed. A synthetic data set is used for the purpose of validation and ease of illustration. The data are generated from the postulated cognitive-cost model, and estimation results show that the true values of the parameters can be recovered with enough variability in the data. Two other models with simplifying assumptions of no information and full information are also estimated with the same set of data with significantly biased path choice utility parameters. Prediction results show that a smaller cognitive cost encourages information search on risky and fast routes and thus higher shares on those routes. As a result, the expected average travel time decreases and the variability increases. The no-information and full-information models are extreme cases of the more general cognitive-cost model in some cases, but not generally so, and thus the increasing ease of information acquisition does not necessarily warrant a fullinformation model.