The influence of variable message signs on en-route diversion between a toll highway and a free competing alternative

  • Fernando RomeroEmail author
  • Juan Gomez
  • Thais Rangel
  • Rafael Jurado-Piña
  • José Manuel Vassallo


In the field of road transport, Advanced Traveller Information Systems represent a relevant tool to manage road traffic, improve drivers’ utility and make a more efficient use of transport infrastructure. Due to the growing sources of en-route information available nowadays, it is crucial to understand better its influence on drivers’ behaviour, particularly with regard to route choice. Previous research in this field has mainly focused on the provision of en-route information in toll-free environments. However, few researches have explored its influence when a tolled alternative is available. This paper is aimed at exploring the influence of variable message signs (VMS) information on drivers’ route choice, made between a free highway and a competing tolled alternative. To that end, we develop a binary logit analysis based on empirical data from the metropolitan area of Madrid, Spain. Results show that the type of information provided to drivers through VMS panels significantly influences their route choice when one of the alternatives is tolled. Furthermore, some combinations of messages, such as adding travel time estimates together with incident messages, greatly increase the diversion rate to the tolled route. The research also offers evidence that the influence of the information provided changes according to the type of day, which may be related to traffic conditions, and to the different types of user characteristic of weekday and weekend mobility.


Advanced traveller information systems Route choice Route diversion Toll road Variable message sign 



The authors would like to thank the Spanish Ministry of Public Works and Transport (Subdirección General de Explotación y Gestión de Red, Dirección General de Carreteras, Ministerio de Fomento), the National Traffic Authority (Dirección General de Tráfico) and the State Meteorological Agency (AEMET), Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Environment for providing the data for conducting this research. The authors would like to thank the reviewers for their efforts in providing comments and suggestions to improve the paper.

Author’s contributions

FR: Literature search and review, case study design and manuscript writing. JG: Manuscript writing, study conception and content planning. TR: Theoretical development, analytic calculations and model derivation. RJ-P: Acquisition and interpretation of data. JMV: Study conception, content planning and critical revision.


This work was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under Grant TRA2015-64723-R (MINECO/FEDER). This research was also possible thanks to the research grant awarded to the first author (BES-2016-077150) by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) and co-financed by the European Social Fund.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Investigación del Transporte (TRANSyT)Universidad Politécnica de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Ingeniería del Transporte, Territorio y Urbanismo, Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y PuertosUniversidad Politécnica de MadridMadridSpain

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