NMC’s Traffic Models Making the News
Not all research has practical applications for or immediate impact on our everyday lives. CTR’s Network Modeling Center (NMC), however, develops computer models that help transportation agencies evaluate and compare solutions and strategies for battling traffic congestion—including right here in the Central Texas area. As detailed by NMC’s partner in modeling, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), the NMC is helping untangle the traffic buildup in a six-county region stretching from Austin to San Marcos. This partnership is essential, as the NMC dynamic traffic assignment models generate huge amounts of data, requiring the TACC supercomputers to yield quick, practical information. “Sometimes our models take a week to run, and if you’re a decision maker that’s an eternity. By working with the TACC data team, the time has been reduced five to ten times,” noted Natalia Ruiz Juri, NMC Assistant Director. Based on NMC models, the TACC developed a visualization tool allowing area decision-makers to estimate the effects of changes to the Austin transportation network and infrastructure. Get full details on this beneficial partnership and how it works to decrease your time in traffic in the TACC article “As Austin Grows, So Do Its Traffic Woes.”
Computing simulations allow the researchers to understand how traffic propagates.
“Equilibrium is the main principle we use in DTA models to represent recurrent traffic conditions,” Ruiz Juri said. “The way we decide the paths people take is based on the assumption that we’re all selfish. We try to minimize our own travel time or cost, even if it is at the expense of others, which often worsens congestion.” (TACC)
The NMC tackles traffic in Bastrop as well. The City of Bastrop requested the NMC’s help in modeling the likely impacts on traffic in downtown Bastrop during construction on State Highway 71, which runs through downtown Bastrop. NMC researcher Dr. Mason Gemar first presented the results of the analysis in October 2014 and returned in January with updated traffic estimates. Based on these estimates, the City of Bastrop plans to take steps to mitigate the expected impacts. Austin-area newspaper The Statesman reported that Bastrop City Manager Mike Talbot is pleased with this proactive approach NMC provides. “It has been a very positive experience having the study done with [NMC],” stated Talbot. “They have bent over backward to work with us, have spent time to educate us, and it has been an invigorating experience.” Given that the construction has not yet begun, the city has time to prevent congestion for travelers through the region as well as Bastrop residents going about their daily business. Read the Statesman.com article “Bastrop City Council hears report on traffic impact.”