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Ramp metering and freeway bottleneck capacity

Listed author(s):
  • Lei Zhang
  • David Levinson


    (Nexus (Networks, Economics, and Urban Systems) Research Group, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minnesota)

The objective of this study is to determine whether ramp meters increase the capacity of active freeway bottlenecks, and if they do, how. The traffic flow characteristics at twenty-seven active bottlenecks in the Twin Cities have been studied for seven weeks without ramp metering and seven weeks with ramp metering. 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 (a 73 percent increase in the duration of the pre-queue transition period), accommodating higher (2 percent) flows during the pre-queue transition period, and increasing queue discharge flow rates after breakdown (3 percent). The two-capacity hypothesis about flow drops after breakdown was also examined and results strongly suggest the percentage flow drops at various bottlenecks follow a normal distribution (mean 5.5 percent, standard deviation 2.3 percent). The implications of these findings on the design of efficient ramp control strategies are discussed, as well as future research directions.

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Paper provided by University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group in its series Working Papers with number 201002.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2003
Publication status: Published in Transportation Research: A Policy and Practice 44(4), May 2010, pp. 218-235.
Handle: RePEc:nex:wpaper:bottleneckcapacity
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Dept. of Civil Engineering, 500 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone: +01 (612) 625-6354
Fax: +01 (612) 626-7750
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  1. 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.
  2. Lei Zhang & David Levinson, 2002. "Estimation of Demand Response to Ramp Metering," Working Papers 200207, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
  3. Zhang, Lei & Levinson, David, 2004. "Optimal freeway ramp control without origin-destination information," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 38(10), pages 869-887, December.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Lei Zhang & David Levinson, 2004. "Some Properties of Flows at Freeway Bottlenecks," Working Papers 200403, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
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