Opposing Hysteresis Patterns in Flow and Outflow Macroscopic Fundamental Diagrams and Their Implications

Guanhao Xu, Pengxiang Zhang, Vikash V. Gayah, Xianbiao Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two key aggregated traffic models are the relationship between average network flow and density (known as the network or flow macroscopic fundamental diagram [flow-MFD]) and the relationship between trip completion and density (known as network exit function or the outflow-MFD [o-FMD]). The flow- and o-MFDs have been shown to be related by average network length and average trip distance under steady-state conditions. However, recent studies have demonstrated that these two relationships might have different patterns when traffic conditions are allowed to vary: the flow-MFD exhibits a clockwise hysteresis loop, while the o-MFD exhibits a counter-clockwise loop. One recent study attributes this behavior to the presence of bottlenecks within the network. The present paper demonstrates that this phenomenon may arise even without bottlenecks present and offers an alternative, but more general, explanation for these findings: a vehicle’s entire trip contributes to a network’s average flow, while only its end contributes to the trip completion rate. This lag can also be exaggerated by trips with different lengths, and it can lead to other patterns in the o-MFD such as figure-eight patterns. A simple arterial example is used to demonstrate this explanation and reveal the expected patterns, and they are also identified in real networks using empirical data. Then, simulations of a congestible ring network are used to unveil features that might increase or diminish the differences between the flow- and o-MFDs. Finally, more realistic simulations are used to confirm that these behaviors arise in real networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-117
Number of pages18
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering

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