gtfsrouter includes a function, gtfs_traveltimes(), to efficiently calculate travel times from a nominated station to all other stations within a GTFS feed. The function takes only two main parameters, the first specifying a departure station, and the second specifying a pair of start_time_limits determining the earliest and latest possible departure times from that station. The function will then return the fastest connections to all possible end stations for services departing within the specified start_time_limits.

For example, travel times to all stations for services leaving a nominated station between 12:00 and 13:00 can be extracted by specifying start_time_limits = c (12, 13) * 3600. The following code uses the internal Berlin data to demonstrate, starting by reading the GTFS data and constructing a timetable for a specified day. This second step, achieved by calling the gtfs_timetable() function, is necessary prior to calculating travel times.

## [1] "/tmp/RtmpGaFCy7/"
f <- file.path (tempdir (), "")
gtfs <- extract_gtfs (f, quiet = TRUE)
gtfs <- gtfs_timetable (gtfs, day = 3)

The gtfs_traveltimes(), function may then be called by specifying a start station (from), and start_time_limits, as in the following code:

from <- "Alexanderplatz"
start_time_limits <- c (12, 13) * 3600
tt <- gtfs_traveltimes(gtfs,
                       from = from,
                       start_time_limits = start_time_limits)
##   start_time duration ntransfers      stop_id               stop_name stop_lon
## 1   12:03:42 00:14:12          1 060003102223     S Bellevue (Berlin) 13.34710
## 2   12:00:42 00:08:36          0 060003102224     S Bellevue (Berlin) 13.34710
## 3   12:00:42 00:15:06          1 060003103233   S Tiergarten (Berlin) 13.33624
## 4   12:00:42 00:10:42          0 060003103234   S Tiergarten (Berlin) 13.33624
## 5   12:03:42 00:11:18          1 060003201213 S+U Berlin Hauptbahnhof 13.36892
## 6   12:00:42 00:05:54          0 060003201214 S+U Berlin Hauptbahnhof 13.36892
##   stop_lat
## 1 52.51995
## 2 52.51995
## 3 52.51396
## 4 52.51396
## 5 52.52585
## 6 52.52585

The function returns a data.frame in which each row details the fastest connection to each station, in terms of the start time and duration of that trip, as well as the number of transfers necessary.

Maximum Traveltimes

The previous code returns a data.frame detailing traveltimes for the following stations:

nrow (tt)
## [1] 697

This relatively low number is because the berlin_gtfs_to_zip() function creates only a small sample portion of a full feed, extending over only one hour and containing a small number of stations. The total number of stations reachable from the Alexanderplatz station during these times are:

nrow (gtfs$stops)
## [1] 957

The gtfs_traveltimes(), returns travel times to only a subset of all potentially reachable stations (697 instead of 957) for two main reasons. First, not all stations may actually be reachable from a given station, and travel times will only be returned for those that are. Secondly, the gtfs_traveltimes(), function has an additional parameter, max_traveltime, and only returns travel times to stations able to be reached within this upper limit. The default value is 3600, or one hour. For the token feed used here, the maximum travel times returned are:

hms::hms (as.integer (max (tt$duration)))
## 00:53:36

In this case that value actually reflects the restricted data included in the sample data set, but applying the function to an actual GTFS feed will by default record traveltimes to all stations reachable within one hour. The following shows a more realistic example using a full version of the Berlin GTFS data:

gtfs <- extract_gtfs ("/<path>/<to>/")
gtfs <- gtfs_timetable (gtfs, day = 3)
tt <- gtfs_traveltimes (gtfs,
                        from = from,
                        start_time_limits = start_time_limits)
nrow (tt); hms::hms (as.integer (max (tt$duration)))
## [1] 8556
## 01:00:00

The number of stations reached in the full feed is far more, and the maximum trip duration is indeed precisely one hour. This parameter of max_traveltime defaults to the relatively short value of one hour because calculation times increase non-linearly with numbers of stations reached. The following graphs show calculation times as a function both of max_traveltime, and numbers of stations reached.

Click one the arrow to the left to see code used to generate these results

maxt <- 3600 + 0:10 * 1800 # 1-6 hours in half-hour intervals
dat <- vapply (maxt, function (i) {
            st <- system.time (
                res <- gtfs_traveltimes (gtfs,
                                         from = from,
                                         start_time_limits = start_time_limits,
                                         max_traveltime = i)
            return (c (st [3], nrow (res))) },
            numeric (2))
dat <- data.frame (max_time = maxt / 3600, # in hours
                   calc_time = dat [1, ],
                   n_stns = dat [2, ] / 1000)
par (mfrow = c (1, 2))
plot (dat$max_time, dat$calc_time, pch = 19, col = "gray",
      xlab = "Max Traveltime (hours)",
      ylab = "Calculation Time (seconds)")
lines (dat$max_time, dat$calc_time)
plot (dat$n_stns, dat$calc_time, pch = 19, col = "gray",
      xlab = "Thousands of Stations Reached",
      ylab = "Calculation Time (seconds)")
lines (dat$n_stns, dat$calc_time)

Those graphs show that increasing the max_traveltime parameter leads to approximately linear increases in the calculation times required for gtfs_traveltimes(), to execute, while relationships with numbers of stations actually reached are highly non-linear. The panel on the right side shows that increases in max_traveltime eventually have little effect on increasing numbers of stations reached, yet increases computation times considerably. Values for max_traveltime should accordingly only be adjusted after first determining appropriate values. In particular, note that although the Berlin GTFS has a large number of distinct stops:

nrow (gtfs$stops)
## [1] 41577

Many of these reflect stop_id values for multiple platforms at a single station. The number of distinct stop names is in fact much less:

length (unique (gtfs$stops$stop_name))
## [1] 13090

A rule-of-thumb is to increase the max_traveltime parameter until the number of stations reached exceeds by some small amount the total number of actual stops in a system. In the case of these Berlin data, a maximum traveltime of 2 hours is sufficient.

nrow (gtfs_traveltimes (gtfs,
                        from = from,
                        start_time_limits = start_time_limits,
                        max_traveltime = 7200))
## [1] 15989

These additional stations reached naturally tend to be stations on the periphery of the system, while doubling the max_traveltime parameter approximately doubles the calculation time (in this case, according to the graphs shown above). Appropriate values will depend on the nature of desired results. Analyses focussed on more central parts of a system can use smaller values, with shorter corresponding calculation times. Analyses for which peripheral stations are important may need to use larger values of max_traveltimes, yet should do so carefully to avoid undue increases in calculation times.

Fastest Routes versus Minimal-Transfer Routes

The gtfs_traveltimes(), function has an additional parameter, minimise_transfers, which can be used to return either the fastest possible connections from a start station to all other reachable stations within a system, or the fastest connection which has the least possible number of transfers. Connections with the least transfers may be slower than fastest possible connections, as shown by the following analysis.

tt_fastest <- gtfs_traveltimes (gtfs,
                                from = from,
                                start_time_limits = start_time_limits)
tt_min_tr <- gtfs_traveltimes (gtfs,
                               from = from,
                               start_time_limits = start_time_limits,
                               minimise_transfers = TRUE)
# non-dplyr join:
tt_fastest <- tt_fastest [tt_fastest$stop_id %in% tt_min_tr$stop_id, ]
tt_min_tr <- tt_min_tr [tt_min_tr$stop_id %in% tt_fastest$stop_id, ]
dat <- data.frame (stop_id = tt_fastest$stop_id,
                   fastest_dur = as.numeric (tt_fastest$duration / 3600), # hours
                   fastest_ntr = tt_fastest$ntransfers,
                   min_tr_dur = as.numeric (tt_min_tr$duration / 3600),
                   min_tr_ntr = tt_min_tr$ntransfers)

60 * mean (dat$min_tr_dur - dat$fastest_dur) # in minutes
## [1] 3.957052
mean (dat$fastest_ntr - dat$min_tr_ntr)
## [1] 0.2818428

Minimal-transfer trips take on average just under 4 minutes longer, while requiring 0.28 fewer trips. Most fastest trips are nevertheless also minimal-transfer trips, as can be seen by the number of identical values returned by these two queries.

length (which (dat$min_tr_ntr == dat$fastest_ntr)) / nrow (dat)
## [1] 0.6875221

So almost 70% of faster trips are also trips with fewest number of transfers, with around 30% of fastest trips involving more than the minimal possible number of transfers.

The Traveltimes Algorithm

The gtfs_traveltimes(), is based on a new algorithm specifically developed for this package, and which will be described here in further detail in subsequent releases of the package.