Ph.D Thesis

Ph.D StudentAvineri Erel
SubjectAspects of Route-Choice Modeling Behavior: Travelers'
Sensitivity to Uncertainty
DepartmentDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Supervisor PROF. Joseph Prashker (Deceased)


This thesis discusses the modeling of travelers’ response to uncertainty in route-choice situations. The purpose of this thesis is to achieve a better understanding of microscopic aspects of route-choice decision-making behavior.

Common route-choice models are based on the maximum utility assumption. However, using the utility maximization assumption in descriptive models of individual choice was criticized by behavioral scientists, and recently also by transportation researchers.

The first aim of this thesis is to examine whether violations of expected utility theory can be found in travelers stated-preferences behavior. Evidence is found to violations of expected utility theory. The experimental results can be explained by Prospect Theory, an alternative model of decision-making under risk.

The second aim of this thesis is to evaluate the effect of the feedback mechanism on route-choice decision-making under uncertainty. Based on experimental results, it is shown that the higher the variance in travel times, the lower the travelers’ sensitivity to travel time differences. These results are in conflict with the paradigm about travel time variability. The empirical results are explained by the Payoff Variability Effect: high payoff variability seems to move choice behavior toward random choice.

The next part of this thesis is focused on the impact of static and dynamic information on travelers’ route-choice behavior. Experimental results are in conflict with the paradigm about traveler information systems: as a consequence of providing information, the propensity of travelers to maximize utility is not always increased. Providing travelers with static information about expected travel times reveals an increase in the heterogeneity of travelers’ choices and reduces the maximization rate.