Path flow estimator for planning applications in small communities

Seungkyu Ryu, Anthony Chen, H. Michael Zhang, Will Recker

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents an alternative planning framework to model and forecast network traffic for planning applications in small communities, where limited resources debilitate the development and applications of the conventional four-step travel demand forecasting model. The core idea is to use the Path Flow Estimator (PFE) to estimate current and forecast future traffic demand while taking into account of various field and planning data as modeling constraints. Specifically, two versions of PFE are developed: a base year PFE for estimating the current network traffic conditions using field data and planning data, if available, and a future year PFE for predicting future network traffic conditions using forecast planning data and the estimated base year origin-destination trip table as constraints. In the absence of travel survey data, the proposed method uses similar data (traffic counts and land use data) as a four-step model for model development and calibration. Since the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) trip generation rates and Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) are both utilized in the modeling process, the analysis scope and results are consistent with those of common traffic impact studies and other short-range, localized transportation improvement programs. Solution algorithms are also developed to solve the two PFE models and integrated into a GIS-based software called Visual PFE. For proof of concept, two case studies in northern California are performed to demonstrate how the tool can be used in practice. The first case study is a small community of St. Helena, where the city's planning department has neither an existing travel demand model nor the budget for developing a full four-step model. The second case study is in the city of Eureka, where there is a four-step model developed for the Humboldt County that can be used for comparison. The results show that the proposed approach is applicable for small communities with limited resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-242
Number of pages31
JournalTransportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Four-step planning model
  • Path flow estimator
  • Small communities
  • Travel demand forecasting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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