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Using Simulation to Plan Capacity

Models by Lane for Two- and


Three-Lane Roundabouts
Joe G. Bared and Abbas Mohasel Afshar

Recently, capacity models have been developed for single- and double- and length of funnel-shaped flare. A recent model used in France,
lane roundabouts by using U.S. data from NCHRP Report 572. The derived from the work of Louah (4) and incorporated in the com-
model for double-lane capacity was provided primarily for critical lane puter program GIRABASE (5), uses an exponential relationship to
(usually right-lane) capacity as a function of total circulating volume. analyze the capacity of single- and multiple-lane roundabouts. The
None of the existing international capacity models separate circulating method takes most of the geometric parameters into account, includ-
volumes by lane. This study proposes planning capacity models for two- ing the width of the splitter island, and it uses the exiting flow rate
lane and three-lane roundabouts by separate entry-lane and separate as an input for calculating capacities.
circulatory-lane traffic volumes. VISSIM microsimulation software was One shortcoming of these models is that they predict the total entry
used first to compare with the new NCHRP models as well as with Aus- capacity of the approach, but they do not predict the entry capacity
tralian (SIDRA) and German (Tanner-Wu) models. Given that predic- by lane. These models also do not recognize the distribution of cir-
tions from VISSIM for overall capacity of one- and two-lane roundabouts culating traffic volume among the circulating lanes and its effect on
are consistent with U.S. data from NCHRP Report 572, new planning the capacity analysis. The only study that has considered round-
capacity models were developed by using VISSIM for the left lane and about capacity by lane is the Australian model by Troutbeck (6) and
right lane of double-lane roundabouts that are functions of separate Akçelik et al. (7 ), which is implemented in the SIDRA software
circulatory-lane traffic volume. For three-lane roundabouts, planning package (8). SIDRA is a gap-acceptance model that considers the
capacity models were developed by separate entry lane (left, middle, and entry capacity volume by lane for single- and multiple-lane round-
right lane) as functions of inner, middle, and outer circulatory-lane vol- abouts. The input parameters include number of lanes, critical gap,
umes. All variable coefficients are statistically significant, and model fits follow-up headway, conflicting volume, number of lanes in conflict-
are strong. ing flow, entry width, and roundabout diameter. Even SIDRA cannot
account for conflicting circulating flow by lane separately and only
considers the total circulating flow regardless of lane volume distri-
Several capacity models for roundabouts have been developed inter- bution. Because SIDRA is the only model to date that has consid-
nationally, primarily in European countries and Australia. Capacity ered the entry capacity by lane, results from SIDRA are compared in
analyses in these models are mainly based on either gap-acceptance this study with the VISSIM microsimulation (9) models, which
theory or linear–nonlinear regression over empirical data sets. also have the capacity to consider lane entry capacity.
In the German equivalent to the U.S. Highway Capacity Manual NCHRP Report 572 (NCHRP-572), Roundabouts in the United
(1), the Tanner-Wu equation (2) is introduced for roundabout capac- States (10), presents field data for a range of traffic volumes and for
ity estimation. This equation is derived from critical gap theory. different geometric designs of roundabouts currently used in the
In their model, maximum possible entry traffic volume from an United States. NCHRP-572 also developed capacity models for
approach is calculated as a function of circulating traffic volume, single-lane roundabouts and the critical lane of double-lane round-
number of lanes in the roundabout, and number of lanes at the entry. abouts. Capacity in these models is an exponential function with
They have calibrated the model and proposed values for parameters conflicting flow as the only variable. They also found that the details
used in the equation such as critical gap, follow-up time, and mini- of geometric design are not significant.
mum gap of circulating traffic. The U.K. model (3) assumes a lin- Bared and Edara (11) modeled roundabouts with VISSIM traffic
ear relationship between entry capacity and the circulating traffic microsimulation and compared the results with an empirical model,
volume. The U.K. model also considers a range of geometric details RODEL (12), and an analytical model, SIDRA. Their study focused
of the circular and entry roadways such as diameter of the round- on single-lane and double-lane roundabouts in the United States. For
about, widths of entry and circulating lanes, approaching angle, the various range of entry and circulating traffic volumes, they con-
cluded that simulation results from VISSIM are comparable to U.S.
field data from NCHRP-572. They also showed that simulated round-
J. G. Bared, FHWA, Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, 6300 George-
town Pike, McLean, VA 22101. A. M. Afshar, Department of Civil and Environ- about capacities are significantly lower than the capacities suggested
mental Engineering, University of Maryland, 1173 Glenn L. Martin Hall, College by RODEL and SIDRA.
Park, MD 20742. Corresponding author: A. M. Afshar: Afshar@umd.edu. Traffic simulation has not been a trusted tool in studying round-
about traffic performance because of the lack of validation. VISSIM is
Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board,
No. 2096, Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington,
one of the few simulation software programs that can be used to model
D.C., 2009, pp. 8–15. roundabouts and validate by comparing with field results. Another gap
DOI: 10.3141/2096-02 in the literature is modeling triple-lane roundabouts. Previous studies

8
Bared and Afshar 9

in the United States are limited to single-lane and double-lane round-


abouts. Triple-lane roundabouts are more challenging because they
have more conflict points and more complex designs.

OBJECTIVE OF THE RESEARCH

This paper analyzes single-, double-, and triple-lane roundabouts by


using VISSIM software and derives capacity models by lane for the
latter two. It also compares the findings of VISSIM with SIDRA,
another recognized evaluation tool.

ORGANIZATION OF THE PAPER

The following section introduces the methodology and layout of the


roundabouts and explains the detail of priority rules needed to real- FIGURE 1 Layout of three-lane roundabout (MUTCD draft).
istically model traffic. Then we present the proposed capacity mod-
els, analyze the results, and compare them to previous work. Finally,
we present a discussion and the conclusions of this research.
Once these rules are set, VISSIM uses them to designate the right-
of-way for conflicting movements. A priority rule consists of one
METHODOLOGY stop line (in red) and one or more conflict markers (in green) that are
associated with the stop line (Figure 4). The priority rules are needed
To model the capacity of roundabouts, a wide range of traffic sce- to prevent crashes, but their excessive use may result in unnecessary
narios was simulated and the throughput of each approach lane mea- delays and stops that will reduce the capacity. VISSIM priority rules
sured. To measure capacity, the eastbound entry was selected. The check for the two basic parameters of minimum headway and min-
idea was to push as much traffic as possible from this entry and to imum gap time. An arriving vehicle at the stop line is allowed to
measure the entering throughput. High traffic volumes were input continue only when the time gap and headway, as measured from
from the eastbound entry to ensure that after the initialization period, the conflict markers, are greater than respective minimum values.
a long queue of vehicles would always be present and ready to enter The minimum headway is typically defined as the length of the
the roundabout. The simulations also were set up to avoid collisions conflict area. During the simulation, the distance between the con-
at the selected entry and exit points. flict marker and the first vehicle approaching it determines current
It is assumed that the throughput from the eastbound entry is actu- headway. Current gap in VISSIM is the time gap between the
ally its capacity. An exponential function is fitted over the data to esti- approaching vehicle and the conflict marker. When the current gap
mate lane capacity for given conflicting flows in each circulatory lane. and headway are less than the minimum settings, the correspond-
In the rest of this section, the layout of the VISSIM model is intro- ing stop line stops any approaching vehicles (see Figure 4). The
duced with its geometric and operational specifications. Priority rules values for these parameters are set partly based on field experi-
for movements are described as key elements in better modeling ence and partly based on observing the simulation animation to see
roundabouts with VISSIM and preventing simulated collisions. whether any visible collisions between vehicles occur. Unnecessary
or very strict priority rules can decrease the capacity of a roundabout
considerably.
Layout of Three-Lane Roundabouts For three-lane roundabouts, the priority rules are more compli-
cated as they involve interactions among three entering lanes and
One of the relevant geometry features in a VISSIM roundabout
simulation is the inscribed circle diameter. Diameter sizes used in
this research for one-, two-, and three-lane roundabouts were 110,
170, and 210 feet, respectively. Figures 1 and 2 show the layouts of
all three-lane roundabouts analyzed in this paper and the VISSIM
screenshot of the three-lane roundabout, respectively.
Figure 3 shows the layout of a variation of the three-lane round-
about where some entries have two lanes and some have three lanes.
This layout is also considered in this research, and capacity models
are proposed for two lanes entering into three circulatory lanes and
also three lanes entering into two circulatory lanes. Figures 1 and 3
are from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)
draft on proposed markings (3H, Roundabout Markings).

Priority Rules in VISSIM

The most important aspect of modeling a roundabout in VISSIM is


setting priority rules for entering and exiting traffic movements. FIGURE 2 Screenshot of three-lane roundabout from VISSIM.
10 Transportation Research Record 2096

1 3
Stop line 5

2
4
6

FIGURE 3 Layout of a two-lane/three-lane roundabout


(MUTCD draft).
FIGURE 5 Priority rules for entering the roundabout.

three circulating lanes. Several priority rules are necessary to model


ferent priority rules because they do not conflict with the traffic in the
the entry of a three-lane roundabout. Each priority rule serves a dif-
inner or middle circulatory lanes. A right-turning vehicle in the right
ferent purpose. Due to the difference in acceleration capabilities and
entry lane should only yield to vehicles on the outer lane. Figure 6
vehicle lengths, separate priority rules are used for passenger cars
and heavy vehicles. In the following paragraph, major priority rules shows the priority rules for right-turning vehicles. The priority rule
are explained. set for this lane looks for a minimum gap at marker 7 (3 s for cars,
Figure 5 shows the priority rules for vehicles entering the round- 4 s for trucks) and for a minimum headway of 25 ft from marker 8
about. The entering traffic is seeking a suitable gap upstream of the so that entering vehicles do not collide with the vehicles already
circulating flow, and at the same time is looking for a space in down- present in the roundabout.
stream traffic to be able to safely enter the circle. This is similar for
all three entering lanes, and so we shall describe the rules for only the
left lane. The traffic from the left lane should satisfy the following Traffic Scenarios
conditions to enter the roundabout:
For modeling capacity of roundabouts in VISSIM, several scenar-
1. Look for a minimum time gap between approaching vehicles ios were created with various turning ratios for the entering approach
at markers 1, 3, and 5 on outer, middle, and inner circulatory lanes (Table 1) and various flows in each circulatory lane to represent a
(3 s for cars and 4 s for trucks) and wide range of traffic conditions (Table 2).
2. Look for a minimum headway (25 ft) at markers 2, 4, and 6 Three levels of traffic volume (low, medium, and high) were
to avoid collisions with vehicles already present in the roundabout. defined for turning ratios and circulating traffic. Several input scenar-
ios were generated by randomly selecting one of the three traffic vol-
The vehicles entering from the right lane have the choice of going ume levels for each parameter and simulated the roundabout to have
straight or turning right at the adjacent exit. The through movements a wide range of traffic conditions for a variety of circulating flows.
are subject to priority rules that are similar to the rules just described
for the left entry lane. However, the right-turning vehicles have dif-

Stop line
Headway 8
Time gap Conflict
marker

Stop line

FIGURE 4 Definition of priority rules. FIGURE 6 Priority rules for right-turning vehicles.
Bared and Afshar 11

TABLE 1 Turning Percentages for ratios in the entry volume of the studied approach were not statisti-
Entry Flow cally significant. Therefore, they were dropped from the two-lane
models. In Equation 1 entry capacity from the left lane is equally sen-
ID Left Turn Through Right Turn
sitive to both inner and outer circulating flows. However, in Equa-
1 10 80 10 tion 2 the coefficient c2 is greater than c1, indicating that traffic in
2 10 65 25
the outer circulatory lane has a greater effect on reducing capacity
in the right entry lane.
3 10 50 40
4 25 65 10
5 25 50 25
Three-Lane Roundabout
6 25 35 40
7 40 50 10 Three Entering Lanes Conflicting
8 40 35 25 with Three Circulatory Lanes
9 40 20 40
Capacity models for the three-lane roundabout are presented in Equa-
tions 3, 4, and 5. The results are based on simulating 130 cases to have
a wide range of traffic conditions and a variety of circulating flows.
CAPACITY MODELS All capacity models are sensitive to the circulating volumes in each
circulatory lane. In addition, the capacity of the right lane is also
With the assumption that the exponential relationship between enter-
a function of Rt, the ratio of right-turning vehicles. However, Rt is
ing capacity and circulating flows found in previous studies is cor-
not significant in the capacity models for the left and middle lanes,
rect, entering capacity was treated as an exponential function of
and is therefore omitted from EL and EM model estimations. All
circulating flows. SAS statistical software (13) was used to estimate
coefficients are statistically significant at α < 0.05 level.
the values of parameters with the best fit (SAS Procedure NLIN). In
these models, capacity results were represented by lane as a func- ⎛ 1.1864  c1 1.0813  c2 0.9479  c3 ⎞
⎜ 7.0754 − − − ⎟
tion of circulating volumes, also by lane. Therefore, each entry lane EL = e⎝ 1000 1000 1000 ⎠
R 2 = 0.955 (3)
has its own capacity model as shown below.
⎛ 0.6758  c1 1.1556  c2 0.9049  c3 ⎞
⎜ 7.0754 − − − ⎟
EM = e⎝ 1000 1000 1000 ⎠
R 2 = 0.980 (4)
Two-Lane Roundabout
⎛ 0.5569  c1 0.9044  c2 1.0258  c3 ⎞
⎜ 7.0754 − − − + 0.2795  Rt ⎟⎠
One hundred thirty different traffic scenarios were simulated by ran- ER = e⎝ 1000 1000 1000
R 2 = 0.955 (5)
domly selecting a level (low, medium, or high) for the turning ratios
and circulating traffic volumes. Equations 1 and 2 are the capacity where
models for two-lane roundabouts given by lane. All coefficients are EL = entry capacity for left lane (vph),
statistically significant at α < 0.05 level. EM = entry capacity for middle lane (vph),
⎛ 1.3008  c1 1.2940  c2 ⎞
ER = entry capacity for right lane (vph),
EL = e⎝
⎜ 7.2079 −
1000

1000 ⎠

R 2 = 0.960 (1) c1 = circulating flow of inner lane (vph),
c2 = circulating flow of middle lane (vph),
⎛ 0.9259  c1 1.0120  c2 ⎞
c3 = circulating flow of outer lane (vph), and
⎜ 7.2079 − − ⎟
ER = e⎝ 1000 1000 ⎠
R 2 = 0.987 (2) Rt = ratio of right-turning vehicles to total entering flow in the
desired entry approach.
where In EL (Equation 3), the coefficient of c1 is larger than those of c2
EL = entry capacity for left lane in vehicles per hour (vph), and c3. The capacity of the left lane is more influenced by the circu-
ER = entry capacity for right lane (vph), lating volume in the inner lane than by the middle or outer lanes. In
c1 = circulating flow of inner lane (vph), and EM (for the middle lane), the largest coefficient belongs to the mid-
c2 = circulating flow of outer lane (vph). dle circulating traffic, as shown by Equation 4. Thus, traffic volumes
in the middle circulating lane have a larger impact on reducing
Equations 1 and 2 show entry capacity as a function of inner and capacity (in EM) than volumes in either the inner or outer circulatory
outer circulating lane flows. The different turning (right and left) lanes. In ER (the capacity model for the right lane), traffic volumes
in the middle and outer circulatory lanes have higher impacts than
that in the inner circulatory lane on reducing capacity. The coeffi-
TABLE 2 Circulating Volumes, vph cient of c1 is almost half of the coefficient of c3. This observation
confirms the approach of this paper to consider each circulatory lane
Level Inner Lane Middle Lane Outer Lane
separately rather than combining all circulatory lane volumes. Also
Low 100–200 100–200 100–200 note that the Rt ratio in EL for right-turning vehicles has a positive
Medium 400–500 400–500 400–500 and significant value. It indicates a slightly higher capacity for the
High 700–800 700–800 700–800 right lane when higher volumes are turning right. In this study, the
right lane at entry is a shared lane for through and right-turning
NOTE: Traffic volumes consist of 5% heavy vehicles. movements (Figure 1).
12 Transportation Research Record 2096

Two Entering Lanes Conflicting with VISSIM, NCHRP-572, and SIDRA are comparable for a single-lane
Three Circulatory Lanes roundabout. In our case, VISSIM and SIDRA have closer results
with comparable slopes. The empirical model from NCHRP-572
For this condition 72 cases were randomly selected by variations of has a flatter slope than the other two and differs more at the extremes,
low, medium, and high traffic volumes to have a wide range of cir- indicating a lower capacity at low circulating volumes and higher
culating flows. Equations 6 and 7 present the capacity models when capacity for high circulating volumes.
the entering approach has two lanes conflicting with three circulatory
lanes (Figure 3). The variables have the same definitions as above,
and all coefficients are statistically significant at α < 0.05 level. Two-Lane Roundabout

⎛ 1.2403  c1 1.2669  c2 0.9709  c3 ⎞ Figure 8 displays right-lane capacities of two-lane roundabouts for
⎜ 7.1281 − − − ⎟
EL = e⎝ 1000 1000 1000 ⎠
R 2 = 0.986 (6) various circulating volumes. VISSIM and NCHRP-572 provide
very similar results. On the other hand, SIDRA predicts higher val-

⎜ 7.1281 −
0.9838  c1 1.0496  c2 1.0352  c3
− −

+ 0.5698  Rt ⎟⎠
ues for right-lane capacity than the other two models, mainly at low
ER = e⎝ 1000 1000 1000
R 2 = 0.949 (7) circulating volumes. The close similarity between the results of the
simulation model in this study and field data in the United States
represented by the NCHRP-572 model gives some justification for
Three Entering Lanes Conflicting with extrapolation beyond two-lane models using VISSIM simulation.
Two Circulatory Lanes Figure 9 shows left-lane capacities of two-lane roundabouts. Only
VISSIM and SIDRA are shown, because the NCHRP-572 report does
The other situation is when the desired entry approach has three not offer a specific model for the left lane in multilane roundabouts.
lanes and is conflicting with only two circulatory lanes. Seventy-two SIDRA consistently predicts higher values for all circulating volumes.
random traffic scenarios are simulated. Equations 8, 9, and 10 give
the capacity model for the left, middle, and right lanes of the desired
approach, respectively. Three-Lane Roundabout

⎛ 1.0878  c1 1.0106  c2 ⎞ Figure 10 illustrates capacity results for the right entry lane. Although
⎜ 7.1553 − − ⎟
EL = e⎝ 1000 1000 ⎠
R 2 = 0.956 (8) the NCHRP-572 equation applies for two-lane roundabouts, we
assumed that the inner circulatory lane has a smaller impact on the
⎛ 1.1572  c1 0.9932  c2 ⎞
⎜ 7.1553 − − ⎟ right lane. Similar to the two-lane roundabout model results, the capac-
EM = e⎝ 1000 1000 ⎠
R 2 = 0.965 (9) ities from VISSIM and NCHRP-572 are close. On the other hand,
the capacities predicted by SIDRA are much higher than the other
⎛ 0.8952  c1 1.037  c2 ⎞
⎜ 7.1553 − − + 0.7441  Rt ⎠⎟ two. Near circulating volumes of 1,000 vph and less, the capacities
ER = e⎝ 1000 1000
R 2 = 0.957 (10)
suggested by SIDRA remain constant.
Figures 11 and 12 illustrate capacity predictions from VISSIM and
COMPARISON AND ANALYSIS OF RESULTS SIDRA for the middle lane and left lane, respectively, of the desired
approach. NCHRP-572 equations do not exist for the middle lane and
One-Lane Roundabout left lane. SIDRA provides a higher estimate of the capacities in all
cases. A comparison between Figures 10 through 12 indicates that for
Figure 7 illustrates the entry volume for a one-lane roundabout ver- a given circulating volume, the right entry lane has the highest capac-
sus a range of circulating volumes. It can be seen that the results of ity, followed by the middle lane and then the left entry lane. To show

1400 VISSIM Entering


NCHRP Entering
1200 SIDRA Entering
Maximum Entry Flow [veh/h]

1000

800

600

400

200

0
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400
Circulating Flow [veh/h]

FIGURE 7 One-lane roundabout entering versus circulating volumes.


Bared and Afshar 13

1800
VISSIM Right

Maximum Right Lane Entry Flow [veh/h]


1600 NCHRP Right
SIDRA Right
1400
Expon. (VISSIM Right)

1200 Expon. (NCHRP Right)


Expon. (SIDRA Right)
1000

800

600

400

200

0
0 500 1000 1500 2000
Circulating [veh/h]

FIGURE 8 Two-lane roundabout entering versus circulating volumes: right lane.

1800
VISSIM Left
1600
Maximum Left Lane Entry Flow [veh/h]

SIDRA Left
Expon. (VISSIM Left)
1400
Expon. (SIDRA Left)
1200

1000

800

600

400

200

0
0 500 1000 1500 2000
Circulating Flow [veh/h]

FIGURE 9 Two-lane roundabout entering versus circulating volumes: left lane.

1600 VISSIM Right Lane


NCHRP Right Lane
1400 SIDRA Right Lane
Maximum Right Lane Entry Flow [veh/h]

Expon. (VISSIM Right Lane)

1200 Expon. (NCHRP Right Lane)


Expon. (SIDRA Right Lane)

1000

800

600

400

200

0
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500
Circulating Flow [veh/h]

FIGURE 10 Three-lane roundabout entering versus circulating volumes: right lane.


14 Transportation Research Record 2096

1600 VISSIM Middle Lane


SIDRA Middle Lane

1400 Expon. (VISSIM Middle Lane)

Maximum Middle Lane Entry Flow [veh/h]


Expon. (SIDRA Middle Lane)

1200

1000

800

600

400

200

0
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500
Circulating Flow [veh/h]

FIGURE 11 Three-lane roundabout entering versus circulating volumes: middle lane.

the capacity of the entire approach, Figure 13 presents “all lanes” CONCLUSIONS
capacity. VISSIM and SIDRA individual entry lane capacities are
combined, and the Tanner-Wu model results are displayed. In some This research has proposed planning capacity models for two-lane
ranges SIDRA shows a substantially greater combined capacity in and three-lane roundabouts. Simulation results from this research
comparison to VISSIM, while the Tanner-Wu shows a slightly are compatible with field data in the United States from NCHRP-572
increased capacity. It was also observed (although not illustrated here) for single-lane and two-lane roundabouts, which explains why the
that Tanner-Wu indicates slightly more capacity than NCHRP-572 capacity models from VISSIM simulation appear to be implicitly
capacity for two-lane roundabouts. supported by what is found in the field in the United States.

1800 VISSIM Left Lane


SIDRA Left Lane
1600 Expon. (VISSIM Left Lane)
Expon. (SIDRA Left Lane)
Maximum Left Lane Entry Flow [veh/h]

1400

1200

1000

800

600

400

200

0
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500
Circulating Flow [veh/h]

FIGURE 12 Three-lane roundabout entering versus circulating volumes: left lane.


Bared and Afshar 15

4500 VISSIM All Lanes


SIDRA All Lanes
4000 Tanner-Wu

Maximum All Lanes Entry Flow [veh/h]


Expon. (VISSIM All Lanes)
3500 Expon. (SIDRA All Lanes)
Expon. (Tanner-Wu)
3000

2500

2000

1500

1000

500

0
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500
Circulating Flow [veh/h]

FIGURE 13 Three-lane roundabout entering versus circulating volumes: all lanes.

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