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Ramp metering and freeway bottleneck capacity

  • Zhang, Lei
  • Levinson, David

This study aims to determine whether ramp meters increase the capacity of active freeway bottlenecks. The traffic flow characteristics at 27 active bottlenecks in the Twin Cities have been studied for seven weeks without ramp metering and seven weeks with ramp metering. A methodology for systematically identifying active freeway bottlenecks in a metropolitan area is proposed, which relies on two occupancy threshold values and is compared to an established diagnostic method - transformed cumulative count curves. A series of hypotheses regarding the relationships between ramp metering and the capacity of active bottlenecks are developed and tested against empirical traffic data. It is found that meters increase the bottleneck capacity by postponing and sometimes eliminating bottleneck activations, accommodating higher flows during the pre-queue transition period, and increasing queue discharge flow rates after breakdown. Results also suggest that flow drops after breakdown and the percentage flow drops at various bottlenecks follow a normal distribution. The implications of these findings on the design of efficient ramp control strategies, as well as future research directions, are discussed.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.

Volume (Year): 44 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (May)
Pages: 218-235

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Handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:44:y:2010:i:4:p:218-235
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  1. Lei Zhang & David Levinson, 2004. "Some Properties of Flows at Freeway Bottlenecks," Working Papers 200403, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
  2. David Levinson & Atif Sheikh, 2002. "Traffic Equilibration: The Case of the Twin Cities Ramp Meter Shut Off," Working Papers 200206, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
  3. Bogenberger, Klaus & May, Adolf D., 1999. "Advanced Coordinated Traffic Responsive Ramp Metering Strategies," Institute of Transportation Studies, Research Reports, Working Papers, Proceedings qt3pq977ts, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Berkeley.
  4. Cassidy, M. J. & Mauch, Michael, 2001. "An observed traffic pattern in long freeway queues," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 143-156, February.
  5. Cassidy, Michael J. & Bertini, Robert L., 1999. "Some traffic features at freeway bottlenecks," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 25-42, February.
  6. Levinson, David & Zhang, Lei, 2006. "Ramp meters on trial: Evidence from the Twin Cities metering holiday," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 40(10), pages 810-828, December.
  7. Lei Zhang & David Levinson, 2002. "Estimation of Demand Response to Ramp Metering," Working Papers 200207, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
  8. Lei Zhang & David Levinson, 2004. "Optimal Freeway Ramp Control without Origin-Destination Information," Working Papers 200404, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
  9. Cassidy, Michael J. & Rudjanakanoknad, Jittichai, 2002. "Study of Traffic at a Freeway Merge and Roles for Ramp Metering," Institute of Transportation Studies, Research Reports, Working Papers, Proceedings qt744926sv, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Berkeley.
  10. Windover, John R. & Cassidy, Michael J., 2001. "Some observed details of freeway traffic evolution," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 35(10), pages 881-894, December.
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