Amiri and Wargalla proved the following local-to-global theorem about shortest paths in directed acyclic graphs (DAGs): if G is a weighted DAG with the property that for each subset S of 3 nodes there is a shortest path containing every node in S, then there exists a pair (s,t) of nodes such that there is a shortest st-path containing every node in G. We extend this theorem to general graphs. For undirected graphs, we prove that the same theorem holds (up to a difference in the constant 3). For directed graphs, we provide a counterexample to the theorem (for any constant). However, we prove a roundtrip analogue of the theorem which guarantees there exists a pair (s,t) of nodes such that every node in G is contained in the union of a shortest st-path and a shortest ts-path.
The original local-to-global theorem for DAGs has an application to the k-Shortest Paths with Congestion c ((k,c)-SPC) problem. In this problem, we are given a weighted graph G, together with k node pairs (s_1,t_1),… ,(s_k,t_k), and a positive integer c ≤ k, and tasked with finding a collection of paths P_1,… , P_k such that each P_i is a shortest path from s_i to t_i, and every node in the graph is on at most c paths P_i, or reporting that no such collection of paths exists. When c = k, there are no congestion constraints, and the problem can be solved easily by running a shortest path algorithm for each pair (s_i,t_i) independently. At the other extreme, when c = 1, the (k,c)-SPC problem is equivalent to the k-Disjoint Shortest Paths (k-DSP) problem, where the collection of shortest paths must be node-disjoint. For fixed k, k-DSP is polynomial-time solvable on DAGs and undirected graphs. Amiri and Wargalla interpolated between these two extreme values of c, to obtain an algorithm for (k,c)-SPC on DAGs that runs in polynomial time when k-c is constant.
In the same way, we prove that (k,c)-SPC can be solved in polynomial time on undirected graphs whenever k-c is constant. For directed graphs, because of our counterexample to the original theorem statement, our roundtrip local-to-global result does not imply such an algorithm (k,c)-SPC. Even without an algorithmic application, our proof for directed graphs may be of broader interest because it characterizes intriguing structural properties of shortest paths in directed graphs.