University of Calgary

Finding a better route


de Barros

Schulich professor is finding a better route

By Kirk Thurbide

City drivers know the problem all too well. They choose an alternate route to avoid construction, only to find that hundreds of other drivers have made the same choice. The result can be even worse than if they’d braved the construction zone.

de Barros at Glenmore and ElbowHelp is on the way from transportation engineer and Schulich School of Engineering professor Dr. Alex de Barros, who is using traffic simulation research to produce a traffic routing technology system that will show drivers the best routes to their destinations.

De Barros is using Calgary’s clogged Glenmore Trail-Elbow Drive-5th Street S.W. interchange as a case study and has determined an optimal formula for diverting traffic.

“We found that we could divert up to 10 percent of normal traffic away from this construction area to improve the flow of traffic,” says de Barros. “Beyond that, our simulation found that alternate routes became overburdened and actually make the traffic situation worse.”

Determining optimal traffic flows is challenging because it is difficult to predict what drivers will do based on the information they have regarding roadway construction, de Barros says. For example, if everyone decides to take the same alternate route, congestion could still result. The routing system he is developing will alleviate congestion by providing more current information that takes into account the routes that every other driver in the area is choosing at that time.

“These results highlight the importance of traffic prediction models that are able to account for the reaction of drivers to the information provided,” he explains.

The Glenmore Trail-Elbow Drive simulation research is aimed at furthering the development of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)—a broad group of applications of state-of-the-art technology to improve the quality and capacity of transportation systems. This research focuses on Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS), a branch of ITS that attempts to provide drivers with up-to-date information on the traffic network to allow them to make decisions on routes, travel times and time of departure.

De Barros anticipates a prototype of this traffic technology could be ready for use in vehicles within the next five years.