Using Temporal Detrending to Observe the Spatial Correlation of Traffic

Recent working paper: Figure2.jpg

This empirical study sheds light on the correlation of traffic links under different traffic regimes. We mimic the behavior of real traffic by pinpointing the correlation between 140 freeway traffic links in a sub-network of the Minneapolis – St. Paul highway system with a grid-like network topology. This topology enables us to juxtapose positive correlation with negative correlation, which has been overlooked in short-term traffic forecasting models. To accurately and reliably measure the correlation between traffic links, we develop an algorithm that eliminates temporal trends in three dimensions: (1) hourly dimension, (2) weekly dimension, and (3) system dimension for each link. The correlation of traffic links exhibits a stronger negative correlation in rush hours, when congestion affects route choice. Although this correlation occurs mostly in parallel links, it is also observed upstream, where travelers receive information and are able to switch to substitute paths. Irrespective to the time-of-day and day-of-week, a strong positive correlation is witnessed between upstream and downstream links. This correlation is stronger in uncongested regimes, as traffic flow passes through consecutive links more quickly and there is no congestion effect to shift or stall traffic. The extracted correlation structure can augment the accuracy of short-term traffic forecasting models.