Macroscopic modeling of variable speed limits on freeways

Jose Ramon Dominguez Frejo, Ioannis Papamichail, Markos Papageorgiou, Bart De Schutter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


The goals of this paper are to analyze the effects of Variable Speed Limits (VSLs) on freeway traffic flow, to propose a new macroscopic model for VSL, and to compare, calibrate and validate the most well known macroscopic models for VSL using real data from a stretch of the A12 freeway in The Netherlands. Firstly, a new macroscopic model for VSLs is presented, combining characteristics of previously proposed models, in order to have the capability of modeling different capacities, critical densities, and levels of compliance for segments affected by speed limits. Subsequently, the effects of VSLs on the fundamental diagram of traffic flow are studied concluding that, at least for the considered stretch of the A12 freeway, the capacity of the freeway segment is decreased (and the critical density is increased) when the speed limit is reduced from 120 to 90 km/h. Furthermore, analyzing a wider range of VSLs, it is shown that the VSL-induced fundamental diagram is not triangular and that the speed limit compliance can be very low if enforcement measures are not applied. Finally, the proposed model is compared analytically, numerically, and graphically with the two most well-known macroscopic models for VSLs. The analysis and the simulation results show that the proposed model delivers more accurate predictions in cases where the compliance is low and/or the capacity is reduced by the use of VSLs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-33
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Freeway traffic control
  • Macroscopic traffic flow models
  • Modeling
  • Variable speed limit


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