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Published on August 26th, 2013 | by Daphane Ng


Stuck in traffic? Maths can get you on your way!

Transportation is unquestionably one of the most significant challenges facing modern cities. From June 18-21, AMSI held a workshop on the Mathematics of Transportation Networks at Monash University.

As populations increase, congestion on our roads and public transport networks becomes ever more severe. The annual cost of congestion to Victoria alone is estimated to rise from $3 billion to $6 billion by 2020. In addition to these economic costs, there is also the negative impact congestion has on the environment, and on people’s quality of life.

Tackling the transportation problem raises many mathematical challenges, particularly in the areas of optimization and stochastic modeling. This workshop brought together researchers from ten universities and four industry organizations to discuss the application of mathematics to the design and operation of transportation networks.

Highlights of the workshop included a discussion by Prof Travis Waller discussing recent work which demonstrates an information analogue of Braess’ paradox; namely that it is possible that giving drivers on a road network detailed information about the state of the network can actually lead to an increase in congestion.

On the stochastic modeling side, Prof Katsuhiro Nishinari gave a detailed overview of recent progress in using simplified models to understand transient effects in the so-called “fundamental diagram” relating flow and density of vehicles along a road. This modeling highlighted universal properties shared by all one dimensional flows of “self-driven” particles, regardless of whether these particles are vehicles, pedestrians or ants.

The highly topical issue of the existence of “macroscopic fundamental diagrams” relating flow and density in arbitrary road networks was discussed by Prof Serge Hoogendoorn, as well as a number of other speakers. Recent breakthroughs in optimization was also a central focus, with very well received talks being given by Prof Pascal Van Hentenryck, Joerg Fliege, Heng-Soon Gan, Hai Vu, Tung Le and Will Moase.

You can watch Cheap Solutions to the Transport Problem, a Public Lecture by Prof. Mark Wallace here:

What attendees had to say

“I am looking forward to future workshops like this one.”
– Sarath Premachandra, Senior Traffic Systems Engineer, VicRoads

“Good conference, well done.”
John Haasz, Haasz Technology

In the media

Stuck in traffic? Maths can get you on your way
Tim Garoni, The Conversation, 17 June 2013

Mathematics ‘the key’ to solving transport woes
John Elder, The Age, 15 June 2013

Peak-hour problems? Just do the maths
Monash University, 14 June 2013

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