Mid-America Transportation Center


Date of this Version


Document Type



Published in Transportation Research Record, Vol. 2673, no. 4 (2019), pp 415–426.

doi 10.1177/0361198119838854


Copyright © 2019 National Academy of Sciences: Transportation Research Board; published by SAGE Publications. Used by permission.


The 6th edition of the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM-6) includes the concept of travel time reliability (TTR), which attempts to determine the distribution of average trip travel times over an extended period. TTR is an inherent part of travelers’ route choice decisions and is used by traffic managers to better quantify operations rather than simply using average travel times. The focus of this paper is on the HCM-6 urban street TTR methodology contained in Chapter 17. The approach uses historical data (e.g., weather and volume fluctuations) and simple empirical data (e.g., 1-day volume count) to provide the user with average travel time and reliability predictions for a traffic facility over an extended period (e.g., a year). To the best of the authors’ knowledge, there is no existing literature on validating the HCM-6 methodology with empirical data. The goals of this paper were to validate the HCM-6 urban street reliability methodology by comparing the empirical Bluetooth (BT) travel time distributions with the estimated HCM-6 distribution, and to propose potential HCM-6 augmentation strategies. Archived BT data from a 0.5-mi urban arterial in Lincoln, Nebraska was used for comparison. It was found that there were statistically significant differences, but minimal practical differences, between the mean of the predicted HCM-6 travel time distribution and the mean of the empirical distribution. However, the HCM-6 distribution had a lower variance than the empirical distribution. Not surprisingly, the HCM-6 model underestimated the TTR metrics (buffer index and the planning time index) by approximately 62% and 9%, respectively.