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Traffic Concepts
CEE 320
Steve Muench
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Outline
1. Basic Concepts
a. Flow Rate
b. Spacing
c. Headway
d. Speed
e. Density
2. Relationships
3. Example
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Concepts
Definitions
Volume, Speed, Density relationships
Speed
Space mean speed
Time mean speed

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Flow Rate (q)
The number of vehicles (n) passing some
designated roadway point in a given time interval
(t)





Units are typically vehicles/hour
Flow rate is different than volume


t
n
q =
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Spacing
The distance (ft) between successive
vehicles in a traffic stream, as measured
from front bumper to front bumper
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Headway (h)
The time (in seconds) between successive
vehicles, as their front bumpers pass a
given point.

=
=
n
i
i
h t
1
h
h
n
q
n
i
i
1
1
= =

=
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Headway
From HCM 2000
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Speed
Time mean speed (spot speed)
Arithmetic mean of all instantaneous vehicle
speeds at a given spot on a roadway section

Space mean speed (u)
The mean travel speed of vehicles traversing a
roadway segment of a known distance (d)
More useful for traffic applications

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Space Mean Speed
It is the harmonic mean (1/H = 1/a + 1/b + )





Space mean speed is always less than time
mean speed
t
l
n
u
n
i
i
=
=
1
1
( )
n n
l t l t l t
n
t + + + = ...
1
2 2 1 1
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Time Mean vs. Space Mean Speed
From HCM 2000
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Density (k)
The number of vehicles (n)
occupying a given length (l)
of a lane or roadway at a
particular instant

Unit of density is vehicles
per mile (vpm).

u
q
l
n
k = =
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Other Concepts
Free-flow speed (u
f
)
Jam density (k
j
)
Capacity (q
m
)
( )
( ) veh ft spacing
mi veh Density
/
280 , 5
/ =
( )
( )
( ) s ft speed
veh ft spacing
veh s Headway
/
/
/ =
( )
( ) veh s headway
hr veh rate Flow
/
600 , 3
/ =
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Speed vs. Density
|
|
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|

\
|
=
j
f
k
k
u u 1
Density (veh/mile)
S
p
e
e
d

(
m
p
h
)

k
j

Jam Density
u
f
Free Flow Speed
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Flow vs. Density
|
|
.
|

\
|
=
j
f
k
k
k u q
2
Density (veh/mile)
F
L
o
w

(
v
e
h
/
h
r
)

k
j

Jam Density
Optimal flow,
capacity, q
m
k
m
Optimal density
Uncongested Flow
Congested Flow
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Speed vs. Flow
|
|
.
|

\
|
=
f
j
u
u
u k q
2
Flow (veh/hr)
S
p
e
e
d

(
m
p
h
)

u
f
Free Flow Speed
Optimal flow,
capacity, q
m
Uncongested Flow
Congested Flow
u
m

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3-D Model
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Example
I-5 over the ship canal bridge has 4 lanes in each direction. The
northbound capacity is 8200 veh/hr/lane and the free-flow speed
is 65 mph. What is the maximum flow rate, maximum density,
jam density? If a one-hour vehicle count in the northbound
direction for the outside lane gives 7034 vehicles in a non-
congested condition, what is the estimated space mean speed
of these 7034 vehicles?
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Traffic Time of Day Patterns
0.00%
1.00%
2.00%
3.00%
4.00%
5.00%
6.00%
7.00%
8.00%
9.00%
1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23
Hour of Day
P
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r
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t

o
f

D
a
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l
y

T
r
a
f
f
i
c
Rural Cars
Business Day Trucks
Through Trucks
Urban Cars
From WSDOT 2003 Annual Traffic Report
From WSDOT 2003 Annual Traffic Report
Time
PM AM
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 2 4 6 8 10 12
Time
PM AM
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 2 4 6 8 10 12
405
5
Montlake Blvd.
520
92nd Ave.
Bvue. Way
148 th Ave.
NE 60th St.
84th Ave.
Lk. Wash.
Uncongested, near
speed limit
Restricted movement
but near speed limit
More heavily congested,
45 - 55 mph
Extremely congested,
unstable flow
West bound
SR 520 Traffic Profile
General Purpose Lanes
1997 Weekday Average Ea st bound
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Primary References
Mannering, F.L.; Kilareski, W.P. and Washburn, S.S. (2005).
Principles of Highway Engineering and Traffic Analysis, Third Edition.
Chapter 5

Transportation Research Board. (2000). Highway Capacity Manual
2000. National Research Council, Washington, D.C.