Understanding Road Usage Patterns in Urban Areas

Saturday, February 16, 2013
Room 204 (Hynes Convention Center)
Marta Gonzalez , Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
In an era of unprecedented global urbanization, society faces a rapidly accelerating demand for mobility, placing immense pressure on urban road networks. This demand manifests in the form of severe traffic congestion, which decreases the roads’ level of service, while at the same time increases both fuel consumption and traffic-related air pollution. Until now, our understanding of road usage patterns in urban areas remained limited, due to the lack of large-scale human mobility data and appropriate methods of analysis. In this paper, we combine the most complete record of daily mobility, based on large-scale mobile phone data, with detailed Geographic Information System (GIS) data, uncovering previously hidden patterns in urban road usage. We find that the major usage of each road segment can be traced to its own - surprisingly few - driver sources. Based on this finding we propose a network of road usage by defining a bipartite network framework, demonstrating that in contrast to traditional approaches, which define road importance solely by topological measures,- the role of a road segment depends on both: its betweeness and its degree in the road usage network.  Moreover, our ability to pinpoint the few driver sources contributing to the major traffic flow allows us to create a strategy that achieves a significant reduction of the travel time across the entire road system, compared to a benchmark approach.