Microsimulation | Modelling Everything That Moves
Danny Pio Murphy is a Traffic and Transportation Engineer with over four years’ industry experience in transportation modelling, planning, design and engineering, along with proficiency in human factor, highway and civil engineering.
Microsimulation modelling software such as Paramics, SATURN and TRANSYT are essential tools for transport engineers and planners as they provide realistic congestion and flow traffic patterns.
Danny shares his views, knowledge and ideas on how these tools are used in DBFL in order to analyse and understand transportation infrastructure project issues, and solve these problems in an efficient, economical and timely manner;
When family, friends or work colleagues catch a glimpse of my computer screen while I’m working on a microsimulation, they often think that I’m playing a video game like SimCity, Cities Skylines or Cities in Motion. But this is far from the truth.
At DBFL, we use microsimulations to plan, design, evaluate and optimise our entire transport network, from single junctions to national networks.
With microsimulation applications you can model everything that moves, whether it be cyclists, pedestrians, cars, public transport or autonomous vehicles. You can watch vehicles as they move through a network and you can influence how they behave. While that does sound comparable to a video game, microsimulations can do much more.
Uses of Microsimulation Software
Microsimulation modelling programmes like Paramics, which are increasingly being utilised to supplement more traditional network software modelling approaches such as SATURN and even large TRANSYT models, allow you to simulate complex psychological decisions and behaviours of road users interacting with each other and their physical environment. Therefore, microsimulation tools are not all fun and games; you must make profound decisions and deliver rapid, high-quality and logical answers to complex, strategic and multi-modal questions.
Microsimulations are highly visual, creating a virtual representation of the environment, mapping a transport network in an extremely detailed way and simulating the complex decisions and behaviours of different modes of travel. These simulations are calibrated and validated to match existing conditions which are not available to all methods of transport modelling.
Due to the visual and dynamic nature of microsimulations, they allow people to see and understand the movement of traffic, showing what is the root of the problems and what remedial measures are needed to improve the situation. People can understand traffic engineering concepts because they can relate to what they are seeing on the screen. They see a traffic queue in the model and make a logical assumption on how long that queue is from their own journey experience.
However, the benefit of microsimulation is not just a visually appealing animation or video; it also provides sound engineering solutions based on sound scientific behaviours. Microsimulation results can identify problems or future challenges within a network and can be used to quantify the potential benefits of an intervention. This is of crucial importance because validating proposed network systems can save money; for example, by providing a visual representation on the average traffic flow reduction due to new paths in a network. Microsimulation can also measure safety performance in “real world” traffic conditions. By undertaking a network assessment in the virtual environment, design issues can be addressed before construction, or an alternative solution can be identified which may be cheaper, safer and more efficient. Well-calibrated and detailed microsimulation results provide certainty to our decisions in DBFL.
Benefits of Microsimulation Software
Nevertheless, benefits from effective microsimulation do not end there. Other microsimulation capabilities include:
* Calculating the economic benefits and supporting business cases of infrastructural proposals
* Understanding the environmental impact of major schemes
* Evaluating the effects of a scheme or development on the wider transport network;
* Supporting traffic, event management plans or transportation studies; and
* Scheme appraisal in the perspective of health benefits, health and safety, accessibility and integration to the wider transport network.
Microsimulation encompasses technology, movement, science, engineering, psychology and development, analysing and visualising many interconnected aspects of traffic, transportation and the built environment. It is a tool that provides an integrated framework of transport intelligence, citizen and political engagement and a rapid and exhaustive analysis instrument. It enables traffic engineers to build many layers of interconnected detail in order to replicate what is happening now in our transport networks and analysing that to predict what will happen in the future as our environment develops and grows. This is why microsimulation models play such an important role in providing reassurance when planning, designing, evaluating and optimising transport networks within our societies.
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SATURN images and paramics video are from the Taney Cross & Environs Operational Review project.