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Bayesian multinomial logit: Theory and route choice example

By Simon Washington, Peter Congdon, Matthew Karlaftis and Fred Mannering


Statisticians along with other scientists have made significant computational advances that enable the estimation of formerly complex statistical models. The Bayesian inference framework combined with Markov chain Monte Carlo estimation methods such as the Gibbs sampler enable the estimation of discrete choice models such as the multinomial logit (MNL) model. MNL models are frequently applied in transportation research to model choice outcomes such as mode, destination, or route choices or to model categorical outcomes such as crash outcomes. Recent developments allow for the modification of the potentially limiting assumptions of MNL such as the independence from irrelevant alternatives (IIA) property. However, relatively little transportation-related research has focused on Bayesian MNL models, the tractability of which is of great value to researchers and practitioners alike. This paper addresses MNL model specification issues in the Bayesian framework, such as the value of including prior information on parameters, allowing for nonlinear covariate effects, and extensions to random parameter models, so changing the usual limiting IIA assumption. This paper also provides an example that demonstrates, using route-choice data, the considerable potential of the Bayesian MNL approach with many transportation applications. This paper then concludes with a discussion of the pros and cons of this Bayesian approach and identifies when its application is worthwhil

Publisher: U.S. National Research Council, Transportation Research Board
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.3141/2136-04
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