An improved Stirling approximation for trip distribution models

Author: De Grange, L., González, F., Muñoz, J.C. and Raveau, S. (2014)

Journal: Networks and Spatial Economics 14 (3), 531-548

Keywords: Maximum entropy, Trip distribution model, Stirling, Burnside, Prediction, Maximum likelihood


Many trip distribution models used in transport systems planning are de- signed to solve maximum entropy optimization problems. Discrete by nature, they must be transformed into continuous and differentiable problems, typically by applying the first-order Stirling approximation. Although it does a reasonable job for large trip flows, this approximation produces significant errors when flows are small. This paper presents two alternatives using the second-order Stirling approximation and Burnsides formula to specify new distribution models that improve prediction for small trip values. In an application to real data for the Santiago, Chile metro system, both proposed formulations obtained results with superior goodness-of-fit and predictive capacity to a traditional model using a first-order Stirling approximation. The version incorporating the second-order Stirling approximation delivered the best performance.