How to Calculate Interarrival Time

By Kaylee Finn
Customers Queuing Outside a Movie Theater
Mean Mr Mustard: Flickr.com

Interarrival time is a value used in queuing theory. Queuing theory uses models to analyze systems that involve waiting in lines for a service, such as customers in a check-out line in the supermarket. The interarrival time is the amount of time between the arrival of one customer and the arrival of the next customer. It is calculated for each customer after the first and is often averaged to get the mean interarrival time, represented by lambda.

Step 1

Sort the queue arrival data in ascending order by arrival time. As an example take the data set of customer arrival time in minutes since store opening: {1, 5, 6, 8, 10}.

Step 2

Subtract the arrival time of the first customer from that of the second customer. For the example, 5 -- 1 = 4; so, the interarrival time between the first and second customer is 4 minutes.

Step 3

Repeat the process for each customer to get all the interarrival times for your dataset. You will get one data point less than your original set. Finishing the example, {4, (6-5), (8-6), (10-8)} = {4, 1, 2, 2}. The average interarrival time in this example is (4+1+2+2)/4, or 9/4, or 2.25 minutes

About the Author

Kaylee Finn began writing professionally for various websites in 2009, primarily contributing articles covering topics in business personal finance. She brings expertise in the areas of taxes, student loans and debt management to her writing. She received her Bachelor of Science in system dynamics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.