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Getting Simulation “Over the Hump” as an Operational Analysis Tool


Traffic simulation has been around in various forms for several decades but penetration into the traffic planning and operational analysis mainstream is still relatively limited. Despite the analytical power that simulation provides, many traffic planning and engineering practitioners have not embraced this methodology.
One reason for this lack of “penetration” is the perception of micro-simulation as a complex and resource-intensive tool relative to alternative methodologies. Another is a lack of clear guidance concerning the advantages provided by simulation and the situations where these advantages would usefully come into play. Yet another is the absence of a comprehensive manual or guidelines on how to go about planning, developing, and using a simulation model – software user manuals tell only part of the story.
This paper is intended to explore and address, in an Ontario context, some of the above factors contributing to the perception of micro-simulation as a “niche” tool. Enhancements and guidance that would facilitate the use of traffic simulation, and current or planned initiatives to respond to these needs are discussed. The paper also provides some high-level and anecdotal guidance on several key aspects of the application of micro-simulation, providing some insights that are not typically addressed by software user manuals although it just scratches the surface on this topic. A key issue addressed in this paper concerns the communication of simulation results and the management of expectations regarding these results.
It is hoped that this paper will assist practitioners (a) in identifying situations from their world where simulation would be advantageous as an analytical tool; (b) by providing some guidance in planning a simulation application; and (c) by preparing them for potential issues arising in the communication of simulation results.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Traffic Demand Modelling and Traffic Simulation
Pringle, R.
Nikolic, G.
Transportation planning