Framework and Guidelines for the Development of a Twin Cities Meso-DTA Model

Principal Investigator

John Hourdos, Director, MN Traffic Observatory, Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering

Project Summary

The economic impact of traffic management grows each day. Well-designed and well-managed roadway systems reduce the cost of transporting goods, cut energy consumption, and save countless person-hours of driving time. More and more, transportation system operators are seeing the benefits of strengthening links between planning and operations. As new complicated Advanced Traffic and Demand Management Systems (ATDMS) are implemented, the more evident it gets that their influence reaches beyond the individual corridor they were designed for. A critical element in improving transportation decision-making and the effectiveness of transportation systems related to operations and planning is through the use of analysis tools. The federal government through the, now thirteen volumes long, Traffic Analysis Toolbox has illustrated the need and benefits from more sophisticated modeling traffic analysis tools. The latest volume, "Guidebook on the Utilization of Dynamic Traffic Assignment in Modeling," stresses the importance of considering route choice in any project analysis. As the urban network increases in density the effects of incidents, construction zones, transportation demand management strategies, Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) strategies, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), as well as capacity increasing strategies gets increasingly more difficult to understand and plan for. In the Twin Cities we have already realized the need for a Regional Travel Demand Model (RTDM) and there is no capacity increasing project that is not planned without the help of a microscopic traffic model. These two are the two ends of the spectrum, macroscopic and microscopic (Micro). The macroscopic takes into account route choice but it understands only static traffic conditions. The microscopic emulates real conditions but would require a room sized computer to consider inter-corridor or regional effects, assuming you can find enough data to calibrate it. MnDOT, through need statement 330, has realized the need for a bridge between the two levels. This bridge is Mesoscopic traffic simulation with Dynamic Traffic Assignment (MesoDTA). There is also Micro with DTA but it is currently technologically challenging and offered by only one product. Meso and DTA are new concepts and there are a number of commercial applications that claim to offer such functionality. Unfortunately there are no two of them that follow the same modeling methodology. Also there is the question on how MesoDTA fits with current practice. This project proposes to deal with these unknowns, explore and, when possible, validate the available choices, and develop a framework for the adoption of MesoDTA in Twin Cities metro planning and operation practices.


  • Minnesota Department of Transportation

Project Details

  • Start date: 07/2014
  • Project Status: Completed
  • Research Area: Transportation Safety and Traffic Flow
  • Topics: None