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ISTTT in Berkeley: From Theory to Practice

FALL 2011 — ITS faculty hosted the 19th International Symposium on Transportation and Traffic Theory (ISTTT) in Berkeley July 18-20 where 36 papers, selected from more than 500 submissions, were presented to transportation scientists from all corners of the globe.

The papers fell into twelve broad topic areas, ranging from highway traffic oscillations to demand analysis and traveler behavior.

As its name implies, much of the work presented in this symposium tends to be highly theoretical. But researchers frequently find they are melding theory and reality, explained Michael Cassidy, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and an organizer of the event.

“In the ideal paper, you see people using abstractions—mathematical ways of describing things—that are consistent with the physics of the transport system, and that include experimental evidence of this consistency,” he said. “I observed a variety of papers that had this very important attribute.”

He cited papers that utilized real data to provide better understanding of freeway bottlenecks, new ideas for emerging transport systems, the re-routing of aircraft in storms, and advances made in modeling traffic with numerous distinct vehicle classes—as in India, among others.

“We saw a case where a very theoretical modeling approach to design a city-wide bus system was adapted to a real city—in this case Barcelona,” said Cassidy. 

“We also saw some very nice work related to emergency evacuations,” he said, noting that in crisis situations it’s impossible to deal with large amounts of data. “Instead, you need robust strategies that will work with limited and readily available input.”

ITS Professor Carlos Daganzo and former ITS student Stella So presented a paper on managing traffic networks in real time during emergency evacuations when a communication network has failed.

Similarly, Australian researchers presented a paper on evacuation that studied the reaction of ants during panic conditions and described how they exited an enclosure.

“This was an interesting example of an effort to obtain insights into human behavior by studying other organisms in nature,” he said.

The three-day event was dedicated to Daganzo, who has long served on the symposium’s advisory committee, and to pay tribute to his transformative contributions to transport science. The symposium was funded by the National Science Foundation, University of California Transportation Center, the Federal Highway Administration, and ITS.

Papers are available for download through Procedia.


photo/Dylan Saloner