Headway variability in public transport: A review of metrics, determinants, effects for quality of service and control strategies

Alejandro Tirachini, Javiera Godachevich, Oded Cats, Juan Carlos Muñoz, Jaime Soza-Parra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The most relevant issues related to headway variability in public transport planning, operations and quality of service are reviewed in this paper. We discuss the causes and consequences of headway variability, the alternative metrics that have been proposed to measure it, the preventive and reactive strategies to control headway variability in both research and practice, including the role of drivers and of present and future technology, and how service provision contracts might deal with headway variability through metrics and financial incentives. The most influential elements that explain headway variability along a route are the irregularity at which vehicles are dispatched, the scheduled frequency, the distance travelled or route length, the passenger demand and associated dwell times, and the number of stops. We conclude that there is a large gap between the state-of-the-art and the state-of-practice in terms of identification of headway variability issues, as well as in the development of mitigation and control measures. It is therefore paramount that future research will contribute to closing this gap by addressing organisational, contractual and technological barriers in the implementation of measures aimed at mitigating headway variability in public transport services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalTransport Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care

Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • bus bunching
  • comfort
  • control
  • quality of service
  • Reliability
  • service planning


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