Some properties of flows at freeway bottlenecks

Lei Zhang, David Levinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The capacity of a freeway segment should be measured only when it is an active bottleneck. The properties of flows at active freeway bottlenecks have a bearing on both the definition of capacity and the procedure of capacity analysis. Past studies have examined the flow features at bottlenecks on several freeways in Toronto, Canada, and San Diego, California. This study examined 27 active bottlenecks in the Twin Cities metro area in Minnesota for a 7-week period. The analysis focuses on the properties of prequeue transition flows (PQFs) and queue discharge flows (QDFs) averaged across various time intervals (30-s, daily average, and long-run average). It is found that the proportion by which flows drop after upstream queues form at all studied bottlenecks ranges from 2% to 11%. The 30-s QDFs display high variation and should not be assumed to be constant. The daily average QDFs at each studied bottleneck follow a normal distribution based on two normality tests and visual inspection of the normal probability plot Results also suggest that the long-run average QDFs [mean of 2,016 passenger cars per lane per hour (pcplph)] and PQFs (mean of 2,124 pcplph) are both normally distributed. The implication of these empirical findings on capacity estimation is also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-131
Number of pages10
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number1883
StatePublished - 2004


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