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Speed & Highway Capacity in Geometric Design

• Traffic flow parameters & geometric design

- Flow
- Speed:

design speed
operating speed
relationship among speeds
Speed in geometric design

• Highway Capacity & Geometric Design

Lecture 5
Traffic flow parameters & geometric design

Traffic flow – volume & flow rate that quantify traffic demand

Volume: the total number of vehicles that pass over a given point or section
of a lane or a roadway during a given period of time (annual, monthly, weekly
daily, or hourly).

Flow rate: The equivalent hourly rate at which vehicles pass over a given point
Of lane or roadway during a given interval less than 1 hour, usually 15 min.

Distinction between volume & flow rate: Volume - # of vehicles;

Flow rate - # of vehicles/hr. (/min, /sec);

Subhourly flow fluctuation &

Peak Hour Factor (PHF)
Subhourly variation: present short-
term flow fluctuation;

For most practical purposes, 15

minutes is considered to be the
minimum period of time over which
traffic conditions are statistically

PHF (Peak Hour Factor): defines the

relationship between the hourly
volume and the maximum rate of
flow within the hour.

PHF = Vhr./(Vmax15min * 4)

e.g. First 15 min count = 1000 vehicles (7:00 – 7:15)

Second 15 min count = 1200 vehicles (7:15-7:30)
Third 15 min count = 900 vehicles (7:30-7:45)
Fourth 15 min count = 1100 vehicles (7:45-8:00)

Hourly count = 4200 vehicles

PHF = 4200/4*1200 = 0.875

PHF is an important parameter both in highway design and

performance evaluation

Practical use of PHF:


Peak-hour volume: 1200 vehicles

PHF = 0.8

Design Hourly Volume = 1200/PHF = 1500 veh/hr.


Speed – is used both as a design criterion and as a performance measure

Design speed: selected speed used for highway geometric design.

• The assumed design speed should be logical for the topography, adjacent
land use, and highway functional classification;
• All of the pertinent features of the highway should be related to the design
speed to obtain a balanced design;
• The design speed chosen should be consistent with the speed a driver is
likely to expect;
• The speed selected for design should fit the travel desires and habits of
nearly all drivers, the design speed chosen should be a high-percentile value..
nearly all inclusive…whenever is feasible.

Operating speed- is a general term typically used to describe the actual speed
of a group of vehicles over a certain section of roadway.

Definition by GREEN BOOK: the speed at which drivers are observed operating
Their vehicles during free flow conditions. The 85th percentile of observed
Speeds s the most frequently used measure of the operating speed associated
with a particular location or geometric feature.

Posted speed (refer to. Lecture 2)


85th percentile speed vs. posted speed


The expected value of Q85 and the posted speed limit has the following linear

E[Q85] = 7.675 + 0.98 × Posted Speed Limit.


85th percentile speed vs. signal density

Operating speed vs. geometric design


85th percentile speed vs. median width


85th percentile speed & lane width


85th percentile speed vs. shoulder width


85th percentile speed vs. Distance between controls


85th percentile speed vs. total pavement width

Highway Capacity & LOS

Highway Capacity & LOS (cont’d)

LOS F describes breakdowns in vehicular flow. Such conditions generally exist

within queues forming behind breakdown points.


Highway Capacity & LOS (cont’d)

Los and corresponding flow, speed, density (basic segment of freeway)

LOS Flow Range Speed range Density range

Veh/ln/hr. mph Veh/mile

A <1700 >60 <12

B 700-1000 57-60 12-20

C 1100-1550 54-57 20-30

D 1550-1850 46-54 30-42

E 1850-2000 30-46 42-67

F Unstable <30 >67

Highway Capacity & LOS (cont’d)

Green Book Guidelines for Selection of Design LOS