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Increasing Freeway Merge Capacity Through On-Ramp Metering

  • Author(s): Rudjanakanoknad, Jittichai
  • et al.
Abstract

This research describes field studies of how on-ramp metering can increase the capacity of freeway merges. Some effects of on-ramp metering have been known for a long time. We have known that on-ramp metering can 1) increase freeway flow and speed upstream of a merge; and 2) reduce system-wide delay by alleviating gridlock-causing queues that have blocked off-ramps. However, past studies have not conclusively shown that on-ramp metering can increase the maximum outflow (capacity) of freeway merges. The experiments conducted in the present study verify that on-ramp metering can increase freeway merge capacities. Detailed traffic data collected from videos for more than 30 rush periods at two merge bottlenecks unveil six major research findings: 1) merge capacity diminishes after merges became active bottlenecks; 2) the mechanism of "capacity drop" has been identified and was found to be reproducible across all days and it both sites. By metering the on-ramp in certain strategic ways, the capacity drop mechanism can be 3) reversed; and 4) even averted; 5) such metering strategies can be fully automated using loop detector measurements; and 6) control strategies other than ramp metering also hold promise for increasing merge capacities. These findings provide much-needed information concerning how to control freeway traffic. They also offer basis for more realistic theories of merging traffic flow.

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