A bi-partite generative model framework for analyzing and simulating large scale multiple discrete-continuous travel behaviour data

Melvin Wong (Corresponding author), Bilal Farooq

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The emergence of data-driven demand analysis has led to the increased use of generative modelling to learn the probabilistic dependencies between random variables. Although their apparent use has mostly been limited to image recognition and classification in recent years, generative machine learning algorithms can be a powerful tool for travel behaviour research by replicating travel behaviour by the underlying properties of data structures. In this paper, we examine the use of generative machine learning approach for analyzing multiple discrete-continuous (MDC) travel behaviour data. We provide a plausible perspective of how we can exploit the use of machine learning techniques to interpret the underlying heterogeneities in the data. We show that generative models are conceptually similar to the choice selection behaviour process through information entropy and variational Bayesian inference. Without loss of generality, we consider a restricted Boltzmann machine (RBM) based algorithm with multiple discrete-continuous layers, formulated as a variational Bayesian inference optimization problem. We systematically describe the proposed machine learning algorithm and develop a process of analyzing travel behaviour data from a generative learning perspective. We show parameter stability from model analysis and simulation tests on an open dataset with multiple discrete-continuous dimensions from a data size of 293,330 observations. For interpretability, we derive the conditional probabilities, elasticities and perform statistical analysis on the latent variables. We show that our model can generate statistically similar data distributions for travel forecasting and prediction and performs better than purely discriminative methods in validation. Our results indicate that latent constructs in generative models can accurately represent the joint distribution consistently on MDC data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-268
JournalTransportation Research. Part C: Emerging Technologies
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Generative modelling
  • Entropy
  • Variational Bayesian inference
  • Machine learning
  • Travel behaviour modelling


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