Network-Scale Ubiquitous Volume Estimation Using Tree-Based Ensemble Learning Methods

Yi Hou, Stanley Young, Nicholas Cohn, Anuj Dimri

Research output: NRELPoster


Currently ubiquitous volume data for roadway networks remains the key missing dimension in traffic operations. Most volume data are average annual daily traffic (AADT) measures derived from the Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS). Although methods to factor the AADT to hourly averages for typical day of week exist, actual volume data is limited to a sparse collection of locations in which volumes are continuously recorded. This paper/poster explores the use of state-of-art machine learning techniques to estimate accurate volume measures that span the highway network providing ubiquitous coverage in space, and point-in-time measures for a specific date and time. Three tree-based ensemble learning models, random forest (RF), gradient boost machine (GBM), and extreme gradient boost (XGBoost), were tested for volume estimation by learning from combined dataset of commercial probe data provided by TomTom, the FHWA's Travel Monitoring Analysis System (TMAS) data, and other infrastructure attributes such as number of lanes, speed limit, and weather. The methods were tested on major corridors and freeways in the metropolitan area of Denver. All three machine learning methods were able to provide hourly volume estimates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year with around 18% mean absolute error to true volume and about 5% of error with respect to roadway capacity. The low error measures allow the potential application by transportation agencies.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NamePresented at the 2020 Transportation Research Board (TRB) 99th Annual Meeting, 12-16 January 2020, Washington, D.C.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5400-70733


  • extreme gradient boost
  • gradient boost machine
  • models
  • random forest
  • tomtom probe data
  • traffic estimation
  • tree-based ensemble learning methods
  • xgboost


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