Large-Scale Road Network Vulnerability Analysis

Abstract: Disruptions in the transport system can have severe impacts for affected individuals, businesses and the society as a whole. In this research, vulnerability is seen as the risk of unplanned system disruptions, with a focus on large, rare events. Vulnerability analysis aims to provide decision support regarding preventive and restorative actions, ideally as an integrated part of the planning process.The thesis specifically develops the methodology for vulnerability analysis of road networks and considers the effects of suddenly increased travel times and cancelled trips following road link closures. The major part consists of model-based studies of different aspects of vulnerability, in particular the dichotomy of system efficiency and user equity, applied to the Swedish road network. We introduce the concepts of link importance as the overall impact of closing a particular link, and regional exposure as the impact for individuals in a particular region of, e.g., a worst-case or an average-case scenario (Paper I). By construction, a link is important if the normal flow across it is high and/or the alternatives to this link are considerably worse, while a traveller is exposed if a link closure along her normal route is likely and/or the best alternative is considerably worse. Using regression analysis we show that these relationships can be generalized to municipalities and counties, so that geographical variations in vulnerability can be explained by variations in network density and travel patterns (Paper II). The relationship between overall impacts and user disparities are also analyzed for single link closures and is found to be negative, i.e., the most important links also have the most equal distribution of impacts among individuals (Paper III).In addition to links' roles for transport efficiency, the thesis considers their importance as rerouting alternatives when other links are disrupted (Paper IV). Such redundancy-important roads, found often to be running in parallel to highways with heavy traffic, may be warranted a higher standard than their typical use would suggest. We also study the vulnerability of the road network under area-covering disruptions, representing for example flooding, heavy snowfall or forest fires (Paper V). In contrast to single link failures, the impacts of this kind of events are largely determined by the population concentration, more precisely the travel demand within, in and out of the disrupted area itself, while the density of the road network is of small influence. Finally, the thesis approaches the issue of how to value the delays that are incurred by network disruptions and, using an activity-based modelling approach, we illustrate that these delay costs may be considerably higher than the ordinary value of time, in particular during the first few days after the event when travel conditions are uncertain (Paper VI).