Intersection Control and MFD Shape: Vehicle-Actuated versus Back-Pressure Control

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Various studies have demonstrated that the state and dynamics of an urban network can be described by Macroscopic Fundamental Diagrams (MFD) and that MFDs can be used for perimeter flow control. Perimeter flow control aims at a higher throughput in an urban network by controlling the flow at the boundaries of sub-networks.

For perimeter flow control it is desirable that the MFD has a favourable and consistent shape, independent of fluctuations in traffic demand and of intersection signal variations. From literature it is known that a consistent shape is related to the homogeneity of vehicle accumulation in the sub-network. However, also the signal controller type may influence homogeneity and the MFD shape.

In this paper we investigate the relationship between the type of intersection control and the shape and scatter of the MFD, and the homogeneity of the sub-network, for Vehicle-Actuated (VA) and Back-Pressure (BP) control. The comparison of the two control methods is performed by means of microsimulation.

The results show that for both control methods the free-flow branch of the MFD has a low scatter with an average relative deviation around 2%. The congested branch shows a much larger deviation, 15% for the Vehicle-Actuated control, 16% for the Back-Pressure control. Furthermore, there is a distinct difference in the shape of the MFDs: for VA control the production increases faster as function of the accumulation than for BP control, but the network breakdown starts at a lower accumulation. So, based on the simulation results, VA control is better in undersaturated situations, and BP is better at higher accumulation levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-158
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event14th IFAC Symposium on Control in Transportation Systems - ITU Faculty of Architecture, Istanbul, Turkey
Duration: 18 May 201620 May 2016


  • Urban Traffic Control
  • Macroscopic Fundamental Diagram
  • Vehicle-Actuated Control
  • Back-Pressure Control
  • Microsimulation


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