Car or Public Transport—Two Worlds
There are two kinds of people: those who travel by car, and those who use public transport. The topic of this article is to show that the algorithmic problem of computing the fastest way to get from A to B is also surprisingly different on road networks than on public transportation networks.
On road networks, even very large ones like that of the whole of Western Europe, the shortest path from a given source to a given target can be computed in just a few microseconds. Lots of interesting speed-up techniques have been developed to this end, and we will give an overview over the most important ones.
Public transportation networks can be modeled as graphs just like road networks, and most algorithms designed for road networks can be applied for public transportation networks as well. They just happen to perform not nearly as well, and to date we do not know how to route similarly fast on large public transportation networks as we can on large road networks.
The reasons for this are interesting and non-obvious, and it took us a long time to fully comprehend them. Once understood, they are relatively easy to explain, however, and that is what we want to do in this article. Oh, and by the way, happy birthday, Kurt!
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