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Non-unimodal and non-concave relationships in the network Macroscopic Fundamental Diagram caused by hierarchical streets

by Guanhao Xu, Vikash Gayah
Publication Type
Journal Name
Transportation Research Part B: Methodological
Publication Date
Page Numbers
203 to 227

Unimodal, concave relationships between average network productivity and accumulation or density aggregated across spatially compact regions of urban networks—so called network Macroscopic Fundamental Diagrams (MFDs)—have recently been shown to exist on homogeneous street networks. When present, MFD relationships facilitate the modeling of traffic congestion at a regional level and have led to the development of various regional traffic control strategies. However, real street networks are not homogeneous—they generally have a hierarchical structure where some streets (e.g., arterials) promote higher mobility than others (e.g., local roads). This paper examines how the presence of hierarchical roadway structures may potentially cause non-unimodal patterns in a network's MFD. These are observed using three types of tools: analytical models of simple network structures, simulations of various idealized roadway networks, and empirical data. The impacts of street hierarchy depend on how vehicles use different roadway types to move within the network; i.e., their routing strategy. The findings suggest that the presence of roadway hierarchies may lead to MFDs that have non-unimodal or non-concave patterns on the free-flow branch when vehicles route themselves according to user equilibrium principles, which is closest to what would be observed in realistic situations. Such patterns are contrary to what is traditionally assumed in most MFD-based modeling frameworks. However, the unimodal and concave MFD should be expected under system optimal routing conditions that maximize network productivity for a given traffic state.