Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Civil Engineering

Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Yu Zhang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Soyoung (Sue) Ahn, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pei-Sung Lin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jian John Lu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Abdul R. Pinjari, Ph.D.


Cluster Analysis, Dynamic Programming, Multi-objective Optimization, Signal Timing Design, Simulation Optimization, Sustainable Transportation


Traffic signal systems serve as one of the most powerful control tools in improving the efficiency of surface transportation travel. Traffic operations on arterial roads are particularly complex because of traffic interruptions caused by signalized intersections along the corridor. This dissertation research presents a systematic framework of integrated traffic control in an attempt to break down the complexities into several simpler sub-problems such as pattern recognition, environment-mobility relationships and multi-objective optimization for multi-criterial signal timing design.

The overall goal of this dissertation is to develop signal timing plans, including a day plan schedule, cycle length parameters, splits and offsets, which are suitable for real traffic conditions with consideration of multi-criterial performance of the surface transportation system. To this end, the specific objectives are to: (1) identify appropriate time-of-day breakpoints and intervals to accommodate traffic pattern variations for day plan schedule of signal timing; (2) explore the relationship between environmental outcomes (e.g., emissions) from emission estimators and mobility measures (e.g., delay and stops) for different types of intersections; (3) optimize signal timing parameters for multi-criteria objectives (e.g., minimizing vehicular delay, number of stops, marginal costs of emissions and total costs), with the comparison of performance metrics for different objectives, at the intersection level; (4) optimize arterial offsets for different objectives at the arterial level and compare the performance metrics of different objectives to recommend suitable objectives for integrated multi-criteria signal timing design in arterial traffic operations.

An extensive review of the literature, which covers existing tools, traffic patterns, traffic control with environmental concerns, and related optimization methods, shows that both opportunities and challenges have emerged for multi-criteria traffic signal timing design. These opportunities include large quantities of traffic condition data collected by system detectors or non-intrusive data collection platforms as well as powerful tools for microscopic traffic modeling and instantaneous emission estimation. The challenge is how to effectively deal with these big data, either from field collection or detailed simulation, and provide useful information for decision makers in practice. Methodologically, there's a tradeoff between the accuracy of objective function values and the computational efficiency of simulation and optimization. To address this need, in this dissertation, traffic signal timing design that systematically enables the use of integrated data and models are investigated and analyzed in the four steps/studies. The technology of identifying time-of-day breakpoints in the first study shows a mathematical way to classify dynamic traffic patterns by understanding dynamic traffic features and instabilities at a macroscopic level on arterials. Given the limitations of using built-in emissions modules within current traffic simulation and signal optimization tools, the metamodeling-based approach presented in the second study makes a methodological contribution. The findings of the second study on environment-mobility relationships set up the base for extensive application of two-stage optimization in the third and fourth studies for sustainable traffic operations and management. The comparison of outputs from an advanced estimator with those from the current tool also addresses improving the emissions module for more accurate analysis (e.g., benefit-cost analysis) in practical signal retiming projects. The third study shows that there are tradeoffs between minimizing delay and minimizing marginal costs of emissions. When total cost (including cost of delay, fuel consumption and emissions) is set as a single objective function, that objective clears the way for relatively reliable results for all the aspects. In the fourth study, the improvements in marginal cost of emissions and total cost by dynamic programming procedure are obvious, which indicates the effectiveness of using total link cost as an objective at the corridor level. In summary, this dissertation advocates a sustainable traffic control system by simultaneously considering travel time, fuel consumption and emissions. The outcomes of this integrated multi-criteria signal timing design can be easily implemented by traffic operators in their daily life of retiming signal timing.