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Minnesota Traffic Observatory

Minnesota Traffic Observatory

Minnesota Traffic Observatory
790 Civil Engineering Bldg.
University of Minnesota
500 Pillsbury Dr. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone: 612-626-5492

The Minnesota Traffic Observatory is located on the Minneapolis East Bank campus of the University of Minnesota.
(maps and directions)

John Hourdos is the director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory.

The Minnesota Traffic Observatory (MTO) is a transportation laboratory focusing on testing and evaluation of new transportation management and operational strategies and traveler information technologies. The MTO also supports the ITS Institute’s research, education and outreach efforts, providing laboratory facilities for graduate and undergraduate students as well as educational resources for course instructors and transportation professionals.

Mission and goals

The primary research mission of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory is to support research in monitoring, management, and simulation of traffic systems. The MTO works in partnership with other University of Minnesota research facilities including the HumanFIRST (Human Factors Interdisciplinary Research in Surface Transportation) Program and the Intelligent Vehicles Laboratory to enable a full spectrum of Intelligent Transportation Systems research.

MTO facilities are used by faculty and students in civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering, computer science, and affiliated disciplines.

The MTO hosts training events for transportation professionals, covering topics such as the effective use of traffic simulations for capacity analysis and planning.

The MTO is also dedicated to supporting transportation education at the University. Members of the MTO staff work with faculty members to develop interactive laboratory modules that help students understand advanced topics in traffic management.


Data acquisition and sensing

The Traffic Observatory has developed several generations of data-gathering systems to meet the needs of researchers working on freeway traffic flow issues. The most recent of these is the Beholder system, a fully independent network of video detectors providing space- and time-continuous coverage of the I-35W/I-94 Commons freeway area in Minneapolis.

Beholder expands on the pioneering Autoscope™ system, originally developed at the University of Minnesota and now in commercial use. Beholder's portable monitoring stations are currently deployed on the roofs of several high-rise buildings overlooking the freeway, and transmit data back to the lab via a high-speed IEEE 802.16 wireless network.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) supplies eight switchable compressed/streamed Internet video feeds to the MTO. Researchers have the ability to switch between any of the approximately 300 Mn/DOT cameras monitoring the metropolitan freeway network.

Simulation and modeling

Several traffic simulation packages are used in the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, chiefly AIMSUN2 for microscopic flow simulation based on individual vehicles, and the KRONOS 9 package—developed at the ITS Institute—for macroscopic or platoon-based simulations. Other packages such as VisSim are used as needed.

Recent simulation and modeling projects at the MTO have focused on improving the efficiency of metered access to urban freeway networks, and developing a dynamic, centrally regulated traffic signal preemption system for emergency vehicles.