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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Variational Formulation of Kinematic Wave Theory


This paper proves that kinematic wave (KW) problems with concave (or convex) equations of state can be formulated as calculus of variations problems. Every well-posed problem of this type, no matter how complicated, is reduced to the determination of a shortest tree in a relevant region of spacetime where cost is predefined. A duality between KW theory and /least cost networks is thus unveiled. In the new formulation space-time curves that constrain flow, such as sets of moving bottlenecks, become space-time shortcuts. These shortcuts become part of the network and affect the nature of the solution but not the speed with which it can be obtained. Complex boundary conditions are naturally handled in the new formulation as constraints/shortcuts of this type.

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