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MTI report shows how cities can plan traffic routing in emergencies

The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) has released its latest peer-reviewed research report, which describes the modeling, calibration, and validation of a multi-modal traffic-flow simulation of the downtown network in San Jose, California. The report also examines various evacuation scenarios and first-responder routings to assess strategies that would be effective during a ‘no-notice’ disaster, which can be used by other cities to plan their own emergency traffic routings. The report, ‘A Framework for Developing and Integrating Effective Routing Strategies within the Emergency Management Decision-Support System’, was written by Anurag Pande, Frances Edwards and Joseph Yu.

The modeled network required a large amount of data on network geometry, signal timings, signal coordination schemes, and turning-movement volumes. Turning-movement counts at intersections were used to validate the network with the empirical formula-based measure known as the ‘GEH statistic’, which is used in traffic engineering and traffic modeling to compare two sets of traffic volumes. Once the base network was tested and validated, various scenarios were modeled to estimate evacuation and emergency vehicle arrival times. Based on these scenarios, a variety of emergency plans for San Jose’s downtown traffic circulation were tested and validated.

By entering their own local data, other communities can use the framework to evaluate their own emergency scenarios. The models also can be used to help train emergency responders, who can see the immediate results of specific decisions. The model can also be used by other communities to plan traffic flow for road closures, construction, major events, and other situations that affect mobility. Dr Pande noted that advances in computing technologies, and programs such as VISSIM, have made it possible to simulate urban transportation networks in great detail, which can be used to devise strategies for evacuation and emergency response in the event of a disaster. Pande commented, “Spontaneous evacuations of New York City and Washington DC following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, demonstrated that USA cities are not prepared to manage the sudden influx of traffic into roads and highways following a no-notice disaster. For many years, anticipated events such as hurricanes have been the basis for evacuation planning. Now we see increasing interest in evacuation planning based on hypothetical no-notice events.”

May 21, 2012

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