Transport modelling


There are some conversations which make my head hurt, where I struggle to keep up with what is being said. When the people I am with are talking I recognise some of the words but can’t picture the concepts in my head. I am the kind of person that thinks in metaphors and if I can’t see what is meant then it is beyond me.

Fortunately I don’t get into such conversations that frequently, I am more likely to be turned off by the subject rather than its complexity, yet I fell right into one when I met with the Traffic Management Modelling people at Tees Valley Combined Authority.

I am doing some work for the authority to help with their future IT requirements and decided it would be useful if there was an understanding of the applications that were of greatest importance to the organisation. I have made appointments with the half a dozen or so people who lead on the key applications and am gradually working through them, identifying opportunities and potential issues.

I had come across transport modelling in my previous roles within the public sector but had never got into the nuts and bolts before. If I had I might have been ready for what was to come. In hindsight, what Michael and Colin do, seems straightforward enough yet during the conversation it struck me as so mind bendingly complicated I thought I would never get there.

They use a couple of applications as part of a transport modelling management suite, which contain a series of flow charts of process and scripts that crunch through enormous data sets of origins and destinations from across the whole of Tees Valley. Sometimes they use even larger datasets from across the country. The applications spit out estimated numbers of vehicles per route, at any particular time of day and the speed of flow, based upon observed traffic movements.

This information is used to predict traffic flows and the effect of new roads and other transport interventions. The predicted flows can then be measured against actuals. In a normal year they are dealing with a couple of major schemes.

They are dealing with millions of pieces of data. Just imaging the number of journeys within Tees Valley brought me out in a sweat while the number of possible factors that could affect the flow brought on nausea. I don’t know how they do it but it shows that it takes all sorts to make the world, or at least the traffic go round.

As for the words I don’t understand – her is one: Isochrone –  a line on a diagram or map connecting points relating to the same time or equal times.

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