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Thread: Traffic Simulator?

  1. #1

    Default Traffic Simulator?

    Does anyone know of free (or cheap) and relatively simple to use software to model runner flow?

    I'm involved with an event that includes Marathon, Marathon Relay and Half-Marathon, and want to model the route to show "choke points". At the moment, I use an Excel spreadsheet, based on historical data, but would prefer to model it.

    I also have another 4 Mile race (approx. 1,000 runners) through a wildlife park that has an "overlap" section, where faster runners, towards the end of the race, overtake slower runners on their way out, so the simulator would be useful here also.

    One of the prime issues is that the Half starts 1hr 45mins after the Marathon start - the event organiser wants to ensure that the marathon winner is first across the line. The outcome is that we have faster Half-Mar runners coming through, past slower marathon runners. Roads are closed, so, for the most part, there isn't an issue, however there are several narrower sections where runner density has been an issue. I'd like to highlight these in a better way than the Excel sheet I currently use.

    Suggestions and/or "war stories" appreciated.

    Best wishes from Ireland!

  2. #2


    Two months and no replies, so I figure I'm probably asking the wrong question.

    Where races have two streams, from split starts or merging races, e.g. 10k and/or Half-Mar merging with Marathon, or something similar, how do you manage/predict the merge?

    As I said in the previous post, I currently use Excel, but it's pretty much trial and error with the model - put in one set of figures, depending on the stream start times, try it, than run again, with different times.

    I assume that others do something like this. If so, I'd like to hear what you do and how you do it.

  3. #3


    A few things on overlapping audiences of different distances and paces...

    1) There is no "computer modeling" software that I've found. The best way to think about the challenge you face is as two bell curves sliding forward and backward on a timeline. You need to think of the arrival times of the lead runners, the middle of the pack and the tail ends of each audience at the bottleneck or merge point. Here is an example:

    Attachment 54

    2) Realize that there is no "good" interaction between these audiences. Staggering in such a way that both mid-packs (humps of the curve) hit the merge point at the same time presents congestion issues. Staggering in such a way that the lead of one and the mid-pack of the other event merge creates issues with those leaders facing an "obstacle course" due to crowd density. Even having the lead of one event merge with the tail of the other event presents problems since the "tail" is typically walkers who are participating in a social manner, walking several people abreast and sometimes showing callous disregard for the course personnel loudly urging them to "travel single file."

    3) The "natural capacity" of each of your events is reduced due to the overlap with the other event. If your events are growing, you may need to artificially cap them at a lower level than if the events were conducted on entirely separate day-parts or days.

    4) These issues can fester and cause problems between yourself and the owners or board you answer to. Although you understand the operational implications of the problem very clearly, the people you answer to will likely have a difficult time grasping it. You will find yourself explaining the basics of the problem repeatedly without them seeming to "get it." In addition, they are likely to offer overly simplified, impractical solutions to the problem rather than allowing you to take any drastic actions to solve it. In the end, if they fail to listen to you and trust your judgment, you may find yourself having to decide whether the income is worth the frustration. I actually resigned from an 11-year position as director of the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon in December 2014 over this very issue. During my time there, I grew the event five-fold from a few thousand participants to nearly 15,000 runners last year. Unfortunately, like you, I faced a significant operational constraint with overlapping events and a bottleneck the last mile. Having studied the situation for several years with input from industry experts, the only real solution would have been to separate the events over two days. This was something the board was hesitant about and the title sponsor was vocally opposed to. Although the board trusted me, they were not willing to defy the title sponsor on this issue. Without being able to make the necessary changes to remedy the problem, I did not feel I could continue producing a successful event from an operational, safety and financial standpoint. Here is an article explaining what happened:

    Feel free to email me via if you have any further questions.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2014


    hi John,

    are you still interested in the traffic simulator? some years ago I had a similar problem during planning an long distance triathlon and I took the split timing records of some Ironman-events for a basic dataset to modell the cycling disciplin.
    but my main task was not directly the traffic of the athletes, it was more the location and number of overtakes between three shorter laps (3x60km) in contrast to two longer laps (2x90km).
    with the help of a big numbers of timing records (I am timer of such events) I derived the "spatially athlete density distribution", this is a figure which notates the passings of athletes during a time period (e.g., one minute) on every position along the course and dependend of the race time (I think, you need the same quantity).
    it was a real interesting result, I can send you some diagrams if you tell me your email to my profile?s private message board. then, we can go into detail.


  5. #5


    A few years ago I saw a demo (using a triathlon) that, using timing info, and course maps, animated the participation field... so you can see exactly where the leaders middle of the pack and the sag wagon are at any stage of the event
    I'm looking for the same thing, as police in this are either love or hate rolling closures.

    that animation would explain it easily

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Bucharest, Romania


    I recently discovered Pedestrian Dynamics that seems to be exactly what you want
    Bellow is a simulation made by them for a marathon.

    The cost is however matching the cool graphics

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