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Integrating behaviour modelling with operations research for user-driven public transport network design

  • // Denmark
  • University/Institute Name Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
  • University/Institute Name Department of Management
  • Attendance Type On Campus
  • Position Duration3 years
  • Position Funding Type
  • Application deadlineExpired

Position Details (PhD Program)

Are you interested in urban transport and how this can be planned more sustainably to the benefit of the users and society? Are you keen on analysing travel behaviour and user preferences? And do you have a background in transport, behavioural economics, data science, mathematical modelling or related fields? Then this PhD position might be right for you. At DTU Management we are looking for excellent PhD applicants for our new research project “Integrating behaviour modelling with operations research for user-driven public transport network design” (INTRAURBAN) funded by Independent Research Fund Denmark (Det Frie Forskningsråd), with employment starting during Spring 2023, with exact starting date to be agreed upon.

Road congestion in urban areas and transport emissions are rapidly increasing, despite the focus on delivering more sustainable transport. While public transport is more sustainable and space-efficient than car transport, its usage has been decreasing in many cities worldwide – even before the pandemic. To achieve a mode shift to public transport more insights on heterogenous user behaviour and preferences are needed. Analysing large empirical data with the purpose of extracting how public transport can be more attractive is the overall focus of this PhD study.

Specifically, the study aims at revealing behavioural drivers through using a combination of innovative big data sources containing passengers’ revealed preferences focusing on the full door-to-door travel. The data sources include travel survey data, satisfaction surveys, data on urban characteristics and stations, and Rejsekort data, which is a big data source that include revealed route choices of passengers. The focus will be on analysing and modelling the factors that increase demand, or repel it, through estimating demand elasticities at the microscopic level. This will include specifically the attractiveness of transfers and terminals, the perceptions of various sub-modes of public transport (such as metro, light rail and bus rapid transit), and the influence of pricing on travel patterns and crowding. The key approach will be to use spatial variation (from origin to destination) and temporal changes (changes to infrastructure, fare reforms, etc.) to reveal travel preferences among the users.

The INTRAURBAN project is a large project at DTU Management, which besides you will include one other PhD study on public transport network design and one postdoc on fare structures in public transport. In addition, it will include international collaboration with world-renowned researchers within the field as well as close contact to industry partners.

Responsibilities and qualifications
Your overall focus will be to analyse and model user behaviour using various data sources, some being very large-scale, with the goal of estimating user preferences in public transport. This will include application of various state-of-the-art statistical models and/or machine learning techniques. More specifically, the research may include the following:

  • Estimation of demand elasticities in multimodal public transport networks
  • Analysis of passenger preferences related to transfers and terminals using behavioural data and survey information on the built environment around stations and station characteristics
  • Route choice modelling of passengers for estimating preferences for various public transport sub-modes, e.g. focusing on revealing the rail factor where passengers prefer rail-based public transport over buses due to improved reliability and comfort
  • Modelling the influence of pricing in public transport with focus on how various pricing structures influence demand (spatially and temporally) and crowding

We therefore expect the following from you:

  • A background within transport, behavioural economics, data science, mathematical modelling, or related
  • Skills related to handling and analysing large datasets
  • Knowledge on applied statistical methods
  • Relevant independent research skills proven through a top-ranked master thesis

The following soft skills are also important:

  • Curiosity and interest about how transportation networks operate and perform
  • Interest in passenger behaviour and behavioural and attitudinal data
  • Good communication skills in English, both written and orally
  • Danish/Scandinavian language skills are preferable, but not compulsory
  • Willingness to engage in group-work with a multi-national team

You must have a two-year master’s degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master’s degree.

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see DTU’s rules for the PhD education.

The assessment of the applicants will be made by the advisor team before 15 January 2023.

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

The PhD will be located in the Network modelling section within the Transport division at DTU Management. The research group consists of scholars with expert knowledge within various aspects of the transport field across all modes of transport and spanning methods such as statistical modelling, machine learning and transport economics. The main advisor will be Professor Otto Anker Nielsen with Associate Professor Jesper Bláfoss Ingvardson as co-advisor.

This project will give you unique opportunities for close collaboration with leading international scholars as well as being close to real-life applications due to the PhD project being part of a large research project across the Transport and Operations Management divisions at DTU Management involving external academic (MIT, TU Delft, ETH and TU Kaiserslautern) and industry partners (Danish public transport companies). It is the plan that you during the project will have two external research stays at MIT and TU Delft as part of the project.

In the Transport Division, we focus on improving mobility in relation to the three main challenges within this sector: 1) climate and environment 2) traffic congestion, and 3) traffic safety. We put numbers on traffic effects and the economic and societal effects using statistical analysis of transport behaviour. We conduct public sector consultancy for the Ministry of Transport and collaborate with transport companies and government agencies. The division considers all scales within transport from the modelling of local pedestrian flows and bicycle traffic to international flight transport. We study all modes of transport both within passenger and freight transport. Our specific focus areas are green transport, electric cars and charging infrastructure, planning and optimisation of public transport, bicycle traffic. Our research has a special focus on human behaviour, and we assess the socio-economic perspectives of transport, including policy instruments and welfare economic appraisal of transport projects.

Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

Further information
Further information may be obtained from Associate Professor Jesper Bláfoss Ingvardson, [email protected] and Professor Otto Anker Nielsen, [email protected].

You can read more about DTU Management at

If you are applying from abroad, you may find useful information on working in Denmark and at DTU at DTU – Moving to Denmark. Furthermore, you have the option of joining our monthly free seminar “PhD relocation to Denmark and startup “Zoom” seminar” for all questions regarding the practical matters of moving to Denmark and working as a PhD at DTU.

Application procedure
Your complete online application must be submitted no later than 2 January 2023 (Danish time). Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link “Apply online”, fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma (in English) including official description of grading scale
  • Applicants from institutions where the language of instruction and examination are not entirely in English are required to provide English language test (e.g. TOEFL, GRE, or IELTS)

You may apply prior to ob­tai­ning your master’s degree but cannot begin before having received it. If you have finished your master degree you may attach a pdf-version of this to the application, as well as any published English papers.

Applications received after the deadline will not be considered.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

Research Skills Required

Computer/Software Skills Required

Which language proficiency is required?

Applicant type required for this position

Position Start Date