Unlocking Traffic Solutions with Microsimulation: A Customizable Approach

As traffic engineers, we have many tools to analyze traffic issues. Every tool in the traffic engineering toolbox has its own set of benefits and challenges. One of the more specialized tools we have at our disposal is microsimulation, which simulates traffic conditions on a modeled network of roads and intersections.

Let’s take a look at three potential use cases where the benefits of microsimulation provide value above more traditional tools.

Unique Intersections

Everyone has that one odd intersection in their city or town where few people are sure how or why the configuration came to be what it is. Constraints such as cost, terrain, utility conflicts, and environmental concerns often result in intersections being modified from the cookie-cutter version of a traditional three or four leg intersection. Customizing microsimulation allows for the unique geometry or operational aspects of certain intersections to be modeled explicitly, while many traditional analysis methods require workarounds to accomplish comparable traffic analysis.

School Drop-Off and Pick-Up

Carpool queueing is a common issue for schools with limited space on-site. Sain has completed several studies to address carpool queueing issues. Detailed carpool planning is often an afterthought in the planning and design of new schools, but planning during the design phase has paid dividends for school districts we’ve worked with. Microsimulation modeling can leverage customization and advanced measures of effectiveness to address existing school pick-up and drop-off problems or to plan for newly constructed school carpool procedures.


Seeing how traffic operates under new conditions is a spectacular way to communicate with the public. New operations with unique intersections or school carpool can be difficult to explain with words or even maps. A microsimulation model can aid in producing simulation videos visually conveying these new operations. Technical results from traditional analysis methods can be overwhelming, while a simulation video is a medium most people can digest relatively comfortably.

To Recap

I wouldn’t call microsimulation the hammer or screwdriver of the traffic engineering toolbox, rather I’d describe it as a hundred-piece socket set. Microsimulation software programs possess many customizable settings and allow for the creation of innumerable geometric configurations. With customizability, the analysis methodology does become less standardized than the traditional methods. It’s critical to have stakeholder buy-in on the methodology and a high level of trust in the microsimulation modeler. However, the benefits of microsimulation for traffic analysis are pronounced for traffic issues that require more out-of-the-box thinking than others.

Let us know if one of these scenarios reminds you of something in your area. Sain Associates is happy to discuss these complex problems with you and ascertain whether microsimulation could be the right tool for the job.