Traffic flow on signalized streets

Carlos F. Daganzo, Lewis J. Lehe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper considers a signalized street of uniform width and blocks of various lengths. Its signals are pretimed in an arbitrary pattern, and traffic on it behaves as per the kinematic-wave/variational theory with a triangular fundamental diagram. It is shown that the long run average flow on the street when the number of cars on the street (i.e. the street's density) is held constant is given by the solution of a linear program (LP) with a finite number of variables and constraints. This defines a point on the street's macroscopic fundamental diagram. For the homogeneous special case where the block lengths and signal timings are identical, all the LP constraints but one are redundant and the result has a closed form. In this case, the LP recipe matches and simplifies the so-called "method of cuts". This establishes that the method of cuts is exact for homogeneous problems. However, in the more realistic inhomogeneous case the difference between the two methods can be arbitrarily large.The paper uses the LP method to obtain the macroscopic fundamental diagrams arising under four different traffic coordination schemes for streets with four different block length configurations. It is found that the best scheme depends on the prevailing density. Curiously, the popular scheme in which all the traffic green phases are started synchronously wins only in rare circumstances. Its performance is particularly underwhelming when the street's blocks are long. The paper also presents density-aware numerical methods to optimize the signal offsets for 1-way and 2-way streets. For 1-way streets operated with a common cycle the method reduces to a simple graphical construction In this case the resulting flow matches the flow that would arise if all of the street's intersections except one with the shortest green phase had been eliminated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-69
Number of pages14
JournalTransportation Research Part B: Methodological
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Arterial street MFD
  • Signal synchronization
  • Traffic flow
  • Traffic signals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation


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