PwC rolls out traffic planning tool
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Aug 14, 2002
Transportation Analysis Simulation System
PwC Consulting unveiled a transportation modeling tool Aug. 13 that could
help state and local officials simulate traffic congestion and pollution
in 3-D as well as develop emergency planning scenarios from manmade or natural
Mike Bridges, a director with the PricewaterhouseCoopers division, said
many modeling technologies used by planners are outdated or unable to incorporate
a number of variables, such as new air-quality legislation.
But PwC's software, called the Transportation Analysis Simulation System,
or TRANSIMS, is a "different paradigm entirely," Bridges said. "I think
it's the next-generation technology and I don't just say that lightly. It's
extremely different and more sophisticated than the current models in the
Such an advanced tool is important for managing transportation infrastructure,
especially when multimillion-dollar projects are being discussed and implemented.
Planners can compare several different alternatives to a major construction
project being considered, he said.
"These type of models allow planners to look at the cost/benefit analysis
of these kinds of issues essentially on paper or models as opposed to what
would happen if you just went ahead with a construction project to see how
it would turn out at the end," he said.
TRANSIMS commercializes technology developed by Los Alamos National
Laboratory and incorporates U.S. Census population and socioeconomic data.
Planners can simulate models "from the bottom up" by inputting attributes
of individual motorists. Although planners deal with aggregate travelers,
attributing daily activities, such as dropping children off at a school,
picking up dry cleaning and going to work, to individual motorists creates
a more realistic model, Bridges said.
"Activity-based surveys identify real people and what they do during
daily activities," he said. "These real-people activities are matched to
the synthetic households such that every synthetic traveler has an activity
pattern that TRANSIMS then simulates. Now, other models don't do this."
A 3-D component allows analysts to view congestion and pollution emissions
data, but it's also to the benefit of high-level decision makers. "They
like presentations of visual traffic congestion and how it might be improved,"
he said. "Here's the congestion before this major improvement and here's
what it'll look at 8 in the morning after this major improvement."
And in light of Sept. 11, the tool can also be used for emergency evacuation
planning. "What if" scenarios can be created if a certain road or bridge
is shut down. "This is a strategic planning tool so the idea would be to
have various emergency plans ready for the most incidences that you can
think of," he said, adding that planners can also develop models five, 10
or 15 years ahead as land use and population changes.
Bridges said the software is being aimed at state and local planners,
but there is also a global market. Federal government agencies, such as
the National Park Service, which is dealing with increasing traffic, may
also find a use, he said. Currently, Portland, Ore., is testing out TRANSIMS.
He said the product will be priced competitively with current models
in the marketplace, but the price will also be scaled depending on the size
of the metropolitan area considering using it. However, the software, although
user-friendly in its look, would take some time to integrate it into a city's
system. PwC offers a two-week training course, he said.
Los Alamos developed the technology over the past eight years, and PwC
has been developing a commercial model for the past year and a half, Bridges