Company soups up traffic simulator

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Professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers is developing an interface to help bring a complex traffic simulation software package to market.

The tool is designed to help planners develop roadway and mass transit systems that ease traffic congestion and air pollution.

The Transportation Analysis and Simulation System (Transims), which was originally developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory for the U.S. Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, simulates daily travel patterns and emissions of vehicles. The software uses commuting information derived from census and survey data for specific geographic areas.

Current transportation modeling software simulates travel from point to point but does not account for multiple destinations within the same trip, according to Bob McLaughlin, PricewaterhouseCoopers' business development manager for the project.

"It starts to map things the way people actually do them. The predictions are much more realistic about the transportation system's performance in handling those trips," he said.

Los Alamos National Laboratory enlisted PricewaterhouseCoopers after Transims proved difficult to use during trials in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Portland, Ore., metropolitan areas.

Under the contract, worth $6 million to $7 million, the company will have the right to market the system to state and metropolitan transportation planning organizations and transportation consultants. Secondary customers could include emergency evacuation and environmental planning organizations, McLaughlin said.

Portland will be the first test site for the commercialized software.

Transims could be useful to cities and states trying to hold on to federal transportation dollars that are tied to air quality standards.

"The emissions are not the same when you start out driving as opposed to if you are driving for an hour on the highway," McLaughlin said. "[Transims] can much more precisely estimate air quality."

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