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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Traffic Analysis Toolbox Volume III: Guidelines for Applying Traffic Microsimulation Modeling Software 2019 Update to the 2004 Version

Chapter 7. Final Report

Figure 14. Step 7: Final Report. Figure 14 is Step 7, which is the Final Report, of the Microsimulation Analytical Process. This step includes: summarize key results and prepare technical documentation.

Figure 14. Diagram. Step 7: Final Report
(Source: FHWA)

This chapter provides some guidance on preparing a short informative briefing on the analysis for stakeholders (Figure 14). In addition, this chapter discusses the documentation of the microsimulation analysis results in a final report and a technical appendix supporting the final report.

Preparing the Results Briefing

Making a clear and concise presentation of analytical findings is a critical element of a successful microsimulation analysis. For some stakeholders, the presentation will be the most critical path to allowing the findings of the analysis to inform their decisionmaking.However, careful and thoughtful preparation for this vital presentation is often overlooked. In the whirl of activity when an analytical project is close to completion, there is a general tendency to focus on the most recent technical details, on difficulties with models, or with conflicting or unclear results obtained from the models. However, while technical issues may be fresh in mind, the presentation should not lose focus.

Remember your audience. Your stakeholders did not conduct the analysis. In fact, they may not have a clear recollection of what the study is and why it was performed. Therefore, the presentation should begin with the analytical objective and the context for the study. That is why the analytical effort was commissioned, so make sure there is a clear tie in all parts of the presentation to the motivations, objectives, and goals of the analysis.

Clarify what was analyzed and not analyzed. Clearly describe the analysis plan and the travel conditions identified through the analysis of data. Clearly show how alternatives differ in both intent and in what specific model parameters or methods were used to capture those differences. Highlight insights gained regarding the performance of alternatives under various travel conditions and how this may influence how the underlying problem can be understood and resolved.

Inform stakeholders, but do not make their decisions for them. The presentation does not have to provide a simple yes/no answer for decision-makers, it provides insight that informs a broader decision. Don't forget to provide results, but keep them connected to supporting the decision. The story that you as the analyst can tell rapidly and effectively will be the most valuable part of any successful analysis to your stakeholders. In the case of a final presentation, graphics that capture a particularly important point, or an animation clip can be used to demonstrate certain aspects of system dynamics, for example, showing how coordinated diversion around an incident can reduce delay.

Preparing the Final Report

The final report presents the assumptions, analytical steps, and the results of the analysis in sufficient detail for decision makers to understand the basis for and implications of choosing among the project alternatives. The final report, however, will not usually contain sufficiently detailed information to enable other analysts to reproduce the results. That is the purpose of the technical report/appendix. The effort involved in summarization of the results should not be underestimated since microsimulation models produce a wealth of numerical output that should be tabulated and summarized. The final report should include the following:

  • Study Objectives and Scope.
  • Overview of Study Approach.
  • Including Methods and Assumptions document entries.
  • Data Collection.
  • Travel Conditions.
  • Calibration Tests and Results.
  • Forecast Assumptions.
  • Description of Alternatives.
  • Results.
  • Conclusions.

The technical report/appendix documents the microsimulation analysis in sufficient detail to enable an analyst to reproduce the results (the version or release of the software used is included). It may be an appendix to the final report or a separate document.

The technical report/appendix is a vital step in preserving the rationale for the various decisions that were made in the process of developing, calibrating, and operating a microsimulation model. The documentation should be sufficient so that given the same input files, another analyst can understand the calibration process and repeat the alternatives analysis.

Key Points

In summary, when documenting and presenting analytic results:

  • Step back and remember your stakeholders may require revisiting the objectives, alternatives, and assumptions to understand the implication of your results.
  • Remember to inform decision makers, not try to make decisions for them.
  • Present your "story" not all the details.
  • Document in more detail and preserve analytical artifacts.
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