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Front. Archit. Civ. Eng.

China 2009, 3(2): 195203


DOI 10.1007/s11709-009-0032-3

RESEARCH ARTICLE

Yuchuan DU, Yuanjing GENG, Lijun SUN

Simulation model based on Monte Carlo method for trafc


assignment in local area road network

Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag 2009

Abstract For a local area road network, the available


trafc data of traveling are the ow volumes in the key
intersections, not the complete OD matrix. Considering the
circumstance characteristic and the data availability of a
local area road network, a new model for trafc assignment
based on Monte Carlo simulation of intersection turning
movement is provided in this paper. For good stability in
temporal sequence, turning ratio is adopted as the
important parameter of this model. The formulation for
local area road network assignment problems is proposed
on the assumption of random turning behavior. The trafc
assignment model based on the Monte Carlo method has
been used in trafc analysis for an actual urban road
network. The results comparing surveying trafc ow data
and determining ow data by the previous model verify the
applicability and validity of the proposed methodology.
Keywords trafc assignment, local area road network,
turning ratio, Monte Carlo method

Introduction

Due to the great importance of efcient trafc for modern


society, the investigation of trafc ow problems is a very
attentive topic of deliberation and research for engineers
and scholars nowadays because it directly relates to the
adjustment, construction, and management of trafc.
Considering restrictions of labor and materials, direct
measurement by manual observation or automatic survey
equipment is not suited for urban road networks that
include large numbers of intersections and road links.
Mathematical modeling for the assignment trafc ow of
networks has been a key tool to understanding the behavior
Received November 22, 2008; accepted February 16, 2009

Yuchuan DU ( ), Yuanjing GENG, Lijun SUN


Key Lab. of Road and Trafc Engineering of the Ministry of Education,
Tongji University, Shanghai 201804, China
E-mail: ycdu@mail.tongji.edu.cn

of the transportation system. There has been a lot of


literature on the trafc assignment problem of networks.
One of them with the greatest impact is the Wardrop
equilibrium condition that has considered the road
congestion effect [1], which is also called the user
equilibrium condition. The user equilibrium assignment
problem has been the focus in the past ve decades. As a
result of Refs. [28] we have gained substantial knowledge
on the formulations, properties, and solution methods of
user equilibrium assignment. During the past 20 years,
software systems have matured, and today several
international rms, such as Caliper, Citilabs, INRO, and
PTV, dominate this market.
However, even though these user equilibrium assignment models and software systems have been widely used
in transportation planning and trafc management, there
are some arguers on the usability and reliability of these
methods, especially in a local area road network [911].
One key point is that these equilibrium assignment
methods are made on the basis of the OD matrix. The
assumption of trip Origin and trip Destination is used quite
often in the complete traveling chain of city level. In terms
of the road networks in small areas, it is hard to dene and
record the OD of a traveler. The available trafc data of
traveling are the ow volumes in the key intersections of a
local area road network, not the complete OD matrix [12].
On the other side, the user equilibrium assignment method
takes the center of mass in the trafc sub-areas as the
Origin point or Destination point. However, this denition
method often makes the traveling activities in the small
scopes network concentrated on the same point, and the
excessive concentration may lead to the failure of analysis
of the microcosmic road network structure.
In road networks, most travelers make turns according to
their planned routes, which they choose in order to arrive
efciently from a starting location to an ending location.
That is the turning ratio that reects the overall option
behavior of all travelers at the downstream intersection. A
number of studies on the turning ratio of an intersection
can be found in the literature, and they can be broadly

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Front. Archit. Civ. Eng. China 2009, 3(2): 195203

classied into two categories: estimated turning proportions statistically from automatic trafc detectors [1315],
and estimated OD ows in networks from link ows [16,
17]. The focus on turning ratio in urban trafc studies and
models is mainly due to the simplication of model
formulation, derivations, computations, and input specication.
Considering the circumstance characteristic and the data
availability of local area road networks, we attempt to
make a new model for trafc assignment based on Monte
Carlo simulation of intersection turning movement. This
model only needs trafc volume data of the inlet road links
and the turning ratio of intersections, which can be easily
attained from automatic eld trafc survey equipment and
manual survey.
This paper is organized as follows. We rst introduce the
modeled local area road network with the denitions and
notation adopted in this paper. Then the stability of the
urban intersection turning ratio is discussed. And then we
describe the formulation for the local area road network
assignment problem. A simulation solution algorithm is
proposed to solve the resultant problem, and then an actual
example is given to demonstrate the applicability and
validity of the proposed methodology.

Modeled local area road network

Consider a local area road network like Zone A in Fig. 1,


which is encircled by trunk roads. In this local area road
network, streets and sideways are dispersed. And the
whole urban network consists of dozens of local area road
networks like Zone A.

Fig. 1

Local area road network in city

For the sake of easy expression, the local area road


network in Zone A is abstracted to the schematic road
network shown in Fig. 2. It is a network consisting of a lot
of connecting links and nodes.
The nodes in Fig. 2 represent the intersections and are
the cross points of links. The links represent the direction

Fig. 2

Abstract schematic drawing of local area road network

road links and the direction of link is the same as the


driving direction of vehicles. The surrounding area of the
local area road network is a closed boundary line, shown as
the virtual lines in the gure. The areas within the virtual
lines are the study scope of the trafc volume distribution
problem about the local area road network. For the sake of
consequent analysis and discussion, the inlet road link
from which the vehicles enter the area through the
boundary is dened as the mark i and the inlet road link
collective is the mark I. The exit road link from which the
vehicles go out of the area through the boundary is dened
as the mark e and the exit road collective is the mark E. The
road link surrounded by the boundary is the internal road
link, with the mark k; this internal road collective is the
mark K. The inlet road links are connected by important
intersections of trunk road, in which automatic eld trafc
survey equipment are usually installed.

Stability of turning ratio in intersections

In general, when driving in the urban road network the


vehicles must go through many intersections before
arriving at their destination. In their trips, the turning
movements of vehicles in the intersections are the
embodiment of selecting the route. In terms of the network
analysis, the turning ratio of intersection reects the
distribution details of the overall options of travelers.
Reference [18] discussed the stability problem of turning
ratio in the intersections of urban road networks and
concludes that the stability of turning ratio is caused by the
relatively stable traveling routes of drivers. On the
condition that the trafc pressure of the city is very large
and the transportation infrastructure resources are intense,
the drivers are often inclined to select the xed routes; they
will not change their traveling routes unless some very
serious trafc congestion or emergency events occur. On
the other hand, the uncertainty of traveling time caused by
the route change will increase the opportunity cost of
options and this makes the travelers hesitate to try a new
route.
Based on the historical ow volume data in 76 main
intersections collected by the urban road trafc information

Yuchuan DU et al. Simulation model based on Monte Carlo method for trafc assignment in local area road network

system in Shanghai (a successive week from May 16, 2006


to May 22, 2006), the changes in turning ratio were
analyzed. Table 1 presents the statistical results about
changes in turning ratio of 76 intersections each day;
Figs. 3(a) and (b) are the time-varying drawings of turning
ratio uctuation in some intersections. From these table
and gures, it can be found that the turning ratio of road
intersections has good repeatability each day and good
stability within one day.
Table 1

Statistical results on turning ratio changes in 76 intersections

direction

average uctuation average value of 80 fractile of coefvalue of turning coefcient of varia- cient of variation/%
ratio/%
tion/%

turn left

2.14

8.56

11.73

go straight

3.39

5.21

7.17

turn right

0.92

9.33

14.99

197

reliability to take the actual measured intersection turning


ratio value in a small time slice (usually 15 min) as the
representative value of turning ratio at this intersection.
This point will reduce the workload of eld investigation to
some extent and strengthen the applicability of this
parameter.

4 Trafc assignment model based on


Monte Carlo method
4.1

Introduction of Monte Carlo method

The Monte Carlo method, also called the random sampling


method or the statistic testing method, is a branch of
computational mathematics. It originates from the earlier
mathematics thoughts of the frequency approximates the
probability. When the solution problem is the occurrence
probability of a certain event, or is an expected value of
any variant, they may make use of a testing method to
get the occurrence frequency of an event or the average
value of this variant and these may be used as the solutions
to problems. These are the basic thoughts of the Monte
Carlo method.
The Monte Carlo method is a process in which, based on
the probability model and in accordance with the process
described by this model, the simulation test results will
become the approximate solutions. Compared with other
value calculation methods, the Monte Carlo method has
the following advantages:
1) The convergence speed is not related to the problem
dimensions.
2) It has strong applicability and is less inuenced by the
limit of problem conditions.
3) The program structure is very simple. In performing
the calculation of the Monte Carlo method in computers,
the program structure is very clear and simple and is easily
programmed and commissioned.
In recent years, with the fast development of computer
technologies, the Monte Carlo method has been widely
applied to scientic studies about physics and engineering,
etc.
4.2 Monte Carlo simulation of turning behavior in
intersections

Fig. 3 Time-varying drawings of turning ratio in some intersections. (a) East inlet of Zhongshan RoadWuzhong Road intersection; (b) south inlet of Jiangning RoadChangshou Road
intersection

The good daily repeatability of the turning ratio in the


intersection makes it a good parameter to be used for the
trafc analysis of urban road networks. On the other hand,
the time-serials stability of turning ratio ensures the

From the perspective of traveling individuals, the turning


ratio of intersections represents the optional probability of
vehicles turning to various directions in the downstream
intersection. And the turning behavior in the intersection is
the micro embodiment of option behavior of vehicle trips.
Therefore, the Monte Carlo method is used in this paper to
perform the simulation of driving behaviors of vehicles in
the local area road network.
More specically, when the simulation vehicle arrives
at the downstream intersection in the local area road

198

Front. Archit. Civ. Eng. China 2009, 3(2): 195203

network, a random variant will be produced to determine


the turning behaviors of vehicles. The turning ratio reects
the overall option behavior of all vehicles at the downstream intersection. In terms of the individual simulation
vehicle, its turning behavior is randomly selected and the
turning ratio value of this intersection is the probability of a
certain turning behavior.
If the turning ratios at the downstream intersection are
separately measured as follows: turn to the left: go straight:
turn to the right = 1 2 1 1 2 , the probabilities of
the individual simulation vehicle turning to the left,
turning to the right or going straight at this intersection are
randomly 1 ,2 ,1 1 2 .
To enable computer programs to perform the turning
behavior simulation, is dened as the random number
uniformly distributed within the [0,1) interval and the
following specication is also made:
Turning option behaviors of vehicles
8
turn to left, 0g < 1 ,
>
<
go straight, 1 g < 1 2 ,
>
:
turn to right, 1 2 g < 1:

(1)

In accordance with the principle of the Monte Carlo


method, we know that if N simulation vehicles make the
turning options at the this downstream intersection, the
frequencies of turning to the left, turning to the right, and
going straight are 1, 2 and 3 respectively, so when the N
is large enough: the frequency for turning to the left p1 , the
frequency for going straight p2 , and the frequency for
turning to the right p3 are respectively calculated as
follows:
8
p v1 =N  1 ,
>
< 1
(2)
p2 v2 =N  2 ,
>
:
p3 v3 =N  1 1 2 :
4.3

Trafc assignment model in local area road network

Consider the closed local area road network shown in


Fig. 2, including NI inlet road links, NE exit road links, and
NK internal road links. Based on the description of formula
(1) about the turning option behaviors of vehicles at the
intersection, the ratio relationship between the ow volume
at each road link and the ow volume at each inlet road
link may be solved with the Monte Carlo method.
For each vehicle that goes from the inlet road link i to the
road network, whether it arrives at an exit road link e (or
internal road link k) is a random event. Set  as a random
variant; if the vehicle arrives at the exit road link e (or the
internal road link k),  will be valued at 1; in other
conditions,  will be valued at 0. In the driving process of
one vehicle, the mathematic expectation E() of random

variant  is equal to the vehicle arrival probability P(ie)


from the inlet road link i to the exit road link e [or equal to
the vehicle arrival probability P(ik) from the inlet road link
i to the internal road link k]. The formula is shown as
follows:
!
8
tk
tk
N
X
Y
X
>
>
>
pik
pj ,
>
< Pik
1
1 j1
!
(3)
te
te
N
Y
X
X
>
>
>
> Pie
pie
pj ,
:
1

j1

in which tk represents the potential path quantity from the


inlet road link i to the internal road link k; te represents the
potential path quantity from the inlet road link i to the exit
road link e; p(ik) represents vehicle arrival probability
through path from the inlet road link i to the internal road
link k; p(ie) represents vehicle arrival probability through
path from the inlet road link i to the exit road link e; and
pj represents the frequency of turning in the intersections of
path .
Further, the vehicle arrival probability p(ik) of the
internal road link k and the arrival probability p(ie) of the
exit road link e may be assembled into a matrix Q: NI(NK+
NE). This matrix Q is called the trafc assignment
coefcient matrix of the local area road network and is
shown as Eq. (4):
0
1
q11 q12 ::: q1NK NE
Bq
C
B 21 q22 ::: q2NK NE C
B
C,
QB
(4)
C
M
M
M
@
A
qNI 1 qNI 2 ::: qNI NK NE
in which qmn represents the ow arrival probability from
the inlet road link i to the internal road link k or the exit
road link e. qmn is shown as
(
Pik, 1mNI ,1nNK ,
qmn
(5)
Pie, 1mNI ,NK 1nNK NE :
For the closed local area road network shown in Fig. 2,
on the condition that the ow volume data of all inlet road
links are known, the ow volumes of each internal road
link within the network and each exit road link can be
solved with Eq. (6):
lQ,

(6)

in which represents the ow volume vector of each


internal road link and exit road link, =(v01 , v02 ,:::, v0Nk NE );
Q represents the trafc assignment coefcient matrix of
local area road network, Q is NI(NK+ NE) matrix, shown in
Eq. (4); l represents the ow volume vector of each inlet
road link to the local area road network, l=(v1 , v2 ,:::, vNI ).

Yuchuan DU et al. Simulation model based on Monte Carlo method for trafc assignment in local area road network

5 Simulation method for trafc assignment


coefcient matrix of local area road network
For a local area road network which only has several links,
it is still difcult work to nd all available paths between
two arbitrary links. Therefore, it is hard to solve formula
(3) directly. In accordance with the Monte Carlo principle,
a simulation method for the trafc assignment coefcient
matrix Q of the local area road network is provided in this
paper. The simulation process of the road network includes
the following steps:
1) Set the quantity of simulation vehicles entering
each inlet road links that will be inputted to the local area
road network as i (i2I), and each simulation vehicle is a
traveling unit. At the same time, the ow of vehicles within
the network is set as 0.
2) Randomly sample an inlet road link i and input one
traveling unit from this road to the local area road network.
When this simulation vehicle arrives at a downstream
intersection, the above Monte Carlo method may be used
for route options, i.e., automatically produce the random
number that is uniformly distributed within [0,1) interval
via the computer, and determine its turning direction in
accordance with the interval of . After the turning
direction is determined, one traveling unit is added to the
road where the simulation vehicle drives, and so on, until
this simulation vehicle arrives at a certain exit road link e
(e2E) of this road network. Then, the simulation process of
the next traveling unit at the inlet road link i may be
calculated in the same way, until the quantity of simulation
vehicles amounts to i.
It should be specially emphasized that in the whole
driving process where each simulation vehicle enters the
road network and leaves the road network, the computer
program will track the traveling units route for two
purposes: rst of all, to ensure that the driving routes of
simulation vehicles are reasonable and effective and there
is no loop; secondly, to record the ow volume data of all
road links in the road network to establish the correspondence relationship between the ow volume of inlet road
links and the ow volume of other road links. Although the
driving routes and OD pairs of simulation vehicles can
be obtained from this simulation method, they are not in
accord with the actual travel paths. In fact, the purpose of
this simulation method is to provide the precise trafc
volume data of road links in a local area road network.
3) Once again, randomly sample one inlet road link in
which ow simulation assignment has not been made and
repeat the above simulation process, until the simulation
process of the ow volume in all inlet road links is done.
4) Calculate the vehicle ow volume at each inlet road
link within each road link of the local area road network,
and the results are stored at the matrix T of NI(NK+ NE),
and the matrix T is called the simulation ow matrix of the
local area road network, just as shown in the form

t11

Bt
B 21
T B
B M
@
tNI 1

t12

:::

t22

:::

M
tNI 2

:::

t1NK NE

199

t2NK NE C
C
C,
C
M
A
tNI NK NE

(7)

in which tmn(1nNK) represents the ow volume of


vehicles that go from inlet road link i to internal road link k
in the simulation process; and tmn(NKn(NK+ NE))
represents the ow volume of vehicles that go from inlet
road link i to exit road link e in the simulation process.
In accordance with the Monte Carlo principle,
qmn

8
tmn
>
,
< Pik lim
vi !1 vi

t
>
: Pie lim mn ,
vi !1 vi

1mNI ,1nNK ,
1mNI ,NK 1nNE :

(8)

When i is large enough, based on the Monte Carlo


principle, we know that the matrix Q obtained from the
simulation analysis will be converged to a steady result.
Therefore,
qmn 

tmn
,
vi

1mNI ,1nNK NE :

(9)

How many simulation vehicles are enough for the


Monte Carlo simulation method in a local area road
network? Different simulation vehicle amounts are
applied in a testing road network just as in Fig. 2 to
ascertain the criterion of simulation vehicle amount. The
mean absolute value of relative tolerance between
initialization turning ratios and turning ratios of simulation
procedure is used to determine the variability of simulation
results. Figure 4 shows the relationship between the mean
absolute value of relative tolerance and simulation
vehicle amount.

Fig. 4 Relationship between mean absolute value of relative


tolerance and simulation vehicle amount

From Fig. 4 we can nd that the mean absolute value of


relative tolerance decreases quickly just when the
simulation vehicle amount increases in the initial
phase. When the simulation vehicle amount reaches

200

Front. Archit. Civ. Eng. China 2009, 3(2): 195203

2000 vehicles, the mean absolute value of relative


tolerance remains at a steady level of 0.01. That means
that 2000 vehicles can be regarded as a large enough
amount for the Monte Carlo simulation method. This
criterion of simulation vehicle amount ensures the
precision of the Monte Carlo simulation method for the
trafc assignment coefcient matrix Q. It also saves the
computer time and improves the efciency of the
simulation program.

6.1

This road network for testing is a close road network


consisting of four trunk roads, namely, Changning Road,
West Yanan Road, West Zhongshan Road, and Jiangsu
Road, as shown in Fig. 5. This road network has 38
intersections, 21 inlet road links, 21 exit road links, and
124 internal road links.
6.2

Experimental result

To verify the applicability of the trafc assignment method


put forward in this paper to the actual analysis of a local
area road network, we select a true local area road network
in Changning District, Shanghai, China as the road
network for testing. We employed the trafc assignment
model based on the Monte Carlo method for the trafc
volume distribution of the road network and the comparison of true data results.

Fig. 5

Prole of road network for testing

Trafc volume assignment

Among the 21 inlet road links within this road network for
testing, the Shanghai Municipal Engineering Management
Department installed embedded loop detectors in 14
intersections which were distributed in Changning Road,
West Yanan Road, West Zhongshan Road, and Jiangsu
Road. The input ow data of these road sections may be
available from the historical database of the real-time
trafc survey system. For the remaining inlet road links,
we performed a long-time (2 h) manual investigation. We
also made a short-time (half an hour) manual investigation
into the turning ratio of 38 intersections in the road
network for testing.

Schematic drawing of road network for testing

Yuchuan DU et al. Simulation model based on Monte Carlo method for trafc assignment in local area road network

Fig. 6

GIS distribution drawing of assignment ow in road network for testing

Based on this, we made good use of the Monte Carlo


simulation method to get the simulation trafc assignment
coefcient matrix Q of this local area road network. Then,
we made good use of real-time trafc data of automatic
eld survey equipment in intersections and manual
investigation data to get the input ow volume vector of
this area l, and employed Eq. (6) to calculate the ow
volume values of 21 exit road links and 124 internal road
links within this area.
We marked the ow volume values at each road link
within the road network for testing in the GIS drawing with
the different width lines. Please refer to Fig. 6. We know
from the gure that, among all roads of the road network
for testing, the ow volumes of the main roads, including
West Zhongshan Road, West Yanan Road, Jiangsu Road,
and Changning Road, are the largest. At the same time,
parts of Kaixuan Road and Dingxi Road within the road
network for testing also have large ow volumes.
6.3

201

Result comparison

For the 14 exit road links within the road network for
testing that are equipped with the automatic trafc survey
equipment, we may compare the actual measured data
provided by these equipment and the calculation results of

the model to verify the applicability and validity of the


method provided in this paper. Table 2 shows the
comparison results between the calculation volume data
of the model and the actual trafc volume data collected by
automatic trafc survey equipment. After comparing these
data, we nd that the calculation results of the model are
generally very approximate to the actual measured data of
eld survey equipment. The absolute value of relative
tolerance is 7.86%. Therefore, the trafc assignment
model based on the Monte Carlo method has good
applicability and validity in the actual road network.

Conclusions

The urban road network is a whole structure with good


relationships. Only after fully understanding the trafc
conditions of each road link in the road network can we
make out the scientic and reasonable trafc control and
management plan. Aiming at the traits of trafc assignment
in the local area road network, this paper has performed
relevant studies on guring out the trafc volume of road
links and made the following conclusions:
1) Verify the time-serial stability of the turning ratio in
the urban road network and ensure it as a key parameter

202

Table 2

Front. Archit. Civ. Eng. China 2009, 3(2): 195203

Comparison table between actually trafc data of eld survey equipment and calculation results of model
road link No.

assignment
ow/(pcu/day)

actually measured data


/(pcu/day)

19009

18577

432

2.33

2.33

18404

20308

1904

9.37

9.37

19433

21571

2138

9.91

9.91

18688

18251

437

2.39

2.39

10

12473

11598

875

7.55

7.55

17

14106

13374

732

5.48

5.48

18

14630

15770

1140

7.23

7.23

20

65111

68246

3135

4.59

4.59

22

18241

17197

1044

6.07

6.07

10

23

9113

11246

2133

18.97

18.97

11

25

17584

18066

482

2.67

2.67

12

26

21089

23872

2783

11.66

11.66

13

27

11486

11005

481

4.37

4.37

14

32

25318

30655

5337

17.41

17.41

S/N

suitable for the analysis of the local area road network;


2) Establish the trafc assignment model of the local
area road network based on the simulation thoughts of the
Monte Carlo random system and provide the simulation
calculation method for the trafc assignment coefcient
matrix of local area road network;
3) Perform the actual trafc assignment work of the road
network by the trafc assignment model based on the
Monte Carlo method and compare it with the actually
measured data to verify the applicability and validity of
this method.
Acknowledgements This paper was based on the result of the research
project Exploring the Characteristics of Travel Behavior under Inuence of
Public Trafc Guidance Means and Modeling in the Actual Urban Trafc
Network, which was supported by a research grant (Grant No. 60804048)
from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and Study on
Integrated Intelligent Transportation System and the Piloting Projects for
2010 EXPO in Shanghai which was supported by a research grant (No.
2006BAG01A02) from the Ministry of Science and Technology of the
Peoples Republic of China. The authors take sole responsibility for all views
and opinions expressed in the paper.

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