Mid-America Transportation Center


Date of this Version


Document Type



Published in Transportation Research Record 2020, Vol. 2674(6) 85–97

DOI: 10.1177/0361198120917977


Copyright © 2020 National Academy of Sciences: Transportation Research Board. Published by SAGE Publications. Used by permission.


The Highway Capacity Manual 6th edition (HCM6) includes a new methodology to estimate and predict the distribution of average travel times (TTD) for urban streets. The TTD can then be used to estimate travel time reliability (TTR) metrics. Previous research on a 0.5-mi testbed showed statistically significant differences between the HCM6 estimated TTD and the corresponding empirical TTD. The difference in average travel time was 4 s that, while statistically significant, is not important from a practical perspective. More importantly, the TTD variance was underestimated by 70%. In other words, the HCM6 results reflected a more reliable testbed than field measurement. This paper expands the analysis on a longer testbed. It identifies the sources and magnitude of travel time variability that contribute to the HCM6 error. Understanding the potential sources of error, and their quantitative values, are the first steps in improving the HCM6 model to better reflect actual conditions. Empirical Bluetooth travel times were collected on a 1.16-mi testbed in Lincoln, Nebraska. The HCM6 methodology was used to model the testbed, and the estimated TTD by source of travel time variability was compared statistically to the corresponding empirical TTD. It was found that the HCM6 underestimated the TTD variability on the longer testbed by 67%. The demand component, missing variable(s), or both, which were not explicitly considered in the HCM6, were found to be the main source of the error in the HCM6 TTD. A focus on the demand estimators as the first step in improving the HCM6 TTR model was recommended.