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Revised Monograph on Traffic Flow Theory

FHWA Contact: Dr. Henry Lieu,

This publication is an update and expansion of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Special Report 165, "Traffic Flow Theory," published in 1975. This updating was undertaken on recommendation of the TRB's Committee on Traffic Flow Theory and Characteristics.

The FHWA funded a project to write this report in June 1992 via an Interagency Agreement with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The project was carried out and edited by Drs. Nathan H. Gartner, Carroll J. Messer, and Ajay Rathi under supervision of an Advisory Committee consisting of Mr. Richard Cunard (TRB), Dr. Henry Lieu (FHWA), and Dr. Hani Mahmassani (University of Texas at Austin).

While the general philosophy and organization of the previous two reports have been retained, the text has been completely rewritten and two new chapters have been added. The primary reasons for doing such a major revision were to bring the material up-to-date; to include new developments in traffic flow theories (e.g., network models); to ensure consistency among chapters and topics; and to emphasize the applications or practical aspects of the theory.

The report consists of ten chapters, representing the most updated and unique compilation of knowledge in the field of traffic flow theories. These chapters are: (1) Introduction, (2) Traffic Stream Characteristics, (3) Human Factors, (4) Car Following, (5) Continuum Flow Models, (6) Macroscopic Flow Models, (7) Traffic Impact Models, (8) Unsignalized Intersections, (9) Signalized Intersections, (10) Traffic Simulation. Chapters 3 and 5 are two completely new chapters in this report.

To ensure the highest degree of reliability, accuracy, and quality in the content of this report, the collaboration of a large number of specialists was enlisted, and this report presents their cooperative efforts. It is hoped that this report will be useful to the Intelligent Transportation Community, graduate students, researchers and practitioners, and others in the transportation profession.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10


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United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration