It has been empirically observed for years that the queue discharge rate is lower than the prequeue capacity. This difference is called the capacity drop. The magnitude of capacity drop varies over a wide range, depending on the local traffic conditions. However, it is unknown what determines the capacity drop value. No thorough empirical analysis has yet revealed a reliable relationship between the capacity drop and the congestion level. This paper fills the gap by revealing, through empirical analysis, the relationship between vehicle speed in congestion and the queue discharge rate. The research studies congested states in which speed ranges from 6 to 60 km/h. The queue discharge rate is shown to increase considerably with increasing speed in the congestion. In contrast to previous research, this study bases the relationship on empirical data collected on freeways, and the data present a sufficiently large observation sample. A discussion about the influence of weather and study site characteristics on the discharge rate indicates that the relationship needs site-specific calibrations. This study provides a better prediction of capacity drop and a better theoretical understanding of the fluctuations in capacity drop.
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