Office of Operations
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

Printable version [PDF 3.8 MB]
You may need the Adobe® Reader® to view the PDFs on this page.
Contact Information: Operations Feedback at

United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
Office of Operations
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590


April 2019

Table of Contents

[ Notice and Quality Assurance Statement ] | [ Technical Report Documentation Page ] | [ Foreword Regarding the 2019 Update ] | [ SI* (Modern Metric) Conversion Factors ]


Guiding Principles of Microsimulation
Overview of the Microsimulation Analytical Process
Organization of This Document
Chapter 1. Microsimulation Analysis Planning
Establish Project Purpose
Select Key Performance Measures
Define Scope
Develop the Analytical Approach
Estimate Required Resources
Prepare a Preliminary Analysis Plan
Example Problem: Alligator City
Key Points
Chapter 2. Data Collection and Analysis
Identify Data Sources
Data for Base Model Development
Data for Determining Travel Conditions
Data for Calibration
Assemble Contemporaneous Data
Verify Data Quality
Identify Travel Conditions Using Cluster Analysis
Example Problem: Data Collection and Analysis
Key Points
Chapter 3. Base Model Development
Specify Model Input Data
Link-Node Diagram: Model Blueprint
Link Geometry Data
Traffic Control Data
Traffic Operations and Management Data
Traffic Demand Data
Driver Behavior Data
Event Data
Simulation Run Control Data
Coding Techniques for Complex Situations
Example Problem: Base Model Development
Key Points
Chapter 4. Error Checking
Review Software Errors
Review Input Errors
View Animation
Residual Errors
Key Decision Point
Example Problem: Error Checking
Key Points
Chapter 5. Model Calibration
Overview of the Calibration Process
Identify Representative Days
Prepare Variation Envelopes
Select Calibration Performance Measures
Creating Variation Envelopes
Calibrate Model Variant to Meet Acceptability Criteria
Adjust Parameters Influencing Bottleneck Throughput
Adjust Parameters Affecting Dynamic Travel Demand and Assignment
Perform Test Against Acceptability Criteria
Example Problem: Model Calibration
Key Points
Chapter 6. Alternatives Analysis
Forecast Future Demands
Represent Alternatives
Determine Required Number of Replications
Test Differences in Alternatives Performance
Perform Hypothesis Testing
Perform Sensitivity Testing
Example Problem: Alternative Analysis
Key Points
Chapter 7. Final Report
Preparing the Results Briefing
Preparing the Final Report
Key Points
Appendix A. Work Zone Case Study in the Seattle I-405 Corridor
Appendix B. Glossary

List of Figures

Figure 1 Diagram. The Microsimulation Analytical Process
Figure 2 Diagram. Step 1: Microsimulation Analysis Planning
Figure 3 Map. Key Features of the Alligator City Example Problem
Figure 4 Diagram. Step 2: Data Collection and Analysis
Figure 5 Diagram. Step 3: Base Model Development
Figure 6 Diagram. Example of link node diagram
Figure 7 Diagram. Link-Node Diagram for Alligator City
Figure 8 Diagram. Step 4: Error Checking
Figure 9 Diagram. Step 5: Model Calibration
Figure 10 Chart. Plot of Variation Envelope for Eastbound AM Travel Times, West Hills to Alligator City
Figure 11 Chart. Assessing Criterion I, Alligator City
Figure 12 Chart. Assessing Criterion II, Alligator City
Figure 13 Diagram. Step 6: Alternative Analysis
Figure 14 Diagram. Step 7: Final Report
Figure 15 Map. I-405 Geographical Coverage
Figure 16 Map. Bottleneck Locations
Figure 17 Chart. Plot of Heuristic Index Calculation Results
Figure 18 Diagram.I-405 Travel Condition Dartboard
Figure 19 Chart. Travel Time and Bottleneck Throughput Profiles for Each Travel Condition
Figure 20 Map. Locations for Demand Adjustment
Figure 21 Chart. Variation Envelope and Calibration Results for Low Demand Travel Condition
Figure 22 Chart. Variation Envelope and Calibration Results for Low Visibility Travel Condition
Figure 23 Chart. Variation Envelope and Calibration Results for Weather + Incidents Travel Condition
Figure 24 Chart. Variation Envelope and Calibration Results for Many Incidents Travel Condition
Figure 25 Chart. Variation Envelope and Calibration Results for Bottleneck Trouble Travel Condition
Figure 26 Chart. Variation Envelope and Calibration Results for Few Incidents Travel Condition
Figure 27 Map. Sinkhole Damaged Sections
Figure 28 Chart. Travel Time Profiles of Alternatives
Figure 29 Chart. South Bound Travel Time Profile for Low Demand Travel Condition
Figure 30 Chart. South Bound Travel Time Profile for Many Incidents Travel Condition
Figure 31 Chart. Total Cost (Hard Cost and Soft Cost) Computation
Figure 32 Chart. Planning Time Index

List of Tables

Table 1 Data Assembled for Travel Conditions Identification (Step 1)
Table 2 Example Transformation of Incident Qualitative Data into Numeric Data (Step 2)
Table 3 Transforming Qualitative Data onto Quantitative Scale (Step 2)
Table 4 Normalizing Data (Step 3)
Table 5 Iteration 0 - Preliminary Assignment of Data into Clusters (Step 5.3)
Table 6 Calculating Cluster Means (Step 5.4)
Table 7 Calculating Distance to Cluster Centroids and Assigning to Nearest Cluster (Steps 5.5-5.6)
Table 8 Example node numbering convention
Table 9 Time-Variant Travel Times, West Hills Eastbound to Alligator City
Table 10 Differences Comparing Individual Days and the Average for the Travel Condition, Expressed as a Percentage of the Time Variant Averages
Table 11 Travel Time Variation Envelope Band Calculation, Alligator City
Table 12 Assessing Criteria III and IV, Alligator City
Table 13 Aggregate Results from Alligator City Alternative Analysis
Table 14 Sum of Squared Error and Average Coefficient of Variation for Different Number of Clusters
Table 15 Sum of Squared Error for Each Cluster Group
Table 16 A Summary of Cluster Analysis Results
Table 17 Summary of Acceptability Criteria Calculation Results
Table 18 Total Additional Delay Calculation using Traditional Approach
Table 19 Delay Estimation Method in Travel Conditions Alternatives Analysis
Table 20 Total Additional Delay Calculation using Travel Conditions Approach
Office of Operations