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Innovative Pedagogical Approach to Teaching Transportation Modeling Course

Xueming (Jimmy) Chen
Urban and Regional Planning Program
L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs


Many university transportation programs in the U.S. only teach conventional urban transportation modeling system (UTMS), i.e., the so-called four-step modeling process: trip generation, trip distribution, mode split, and trip assignment. However, this conventional teaching method is no longer adequate, because it does not take into account micro-level operational analysis, which represents the wave of future.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) approved the Transportation Planning and Analytics (TP&A) Graduate Certificate Program within the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. One of the required Graduate Certificate Program courses is the transportation modeling course. This course was taught in Spring 2008 (URSP 691: Transportation System Modeling) and Fall 2008 (URSP 691: Transportation Analytics and Modeling) in a conventional way, with very low enrollments of no more than 5 students each semester.

To reverse this trend, this instructor decided to teach this course in an innovative way starting in Fall 2009 by incorporating a micro-level operational analysis into the teaching process. The grant proposal was submitted to the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) in October 2008. In December 2008, CTE awarded a small grant to support this project.


Among others, this project has the following two major objectives:

  • acquire lab educational licenses of two new traffic operations software packages: HCS+T7F and TSIS-CORSIM. HCS+ (Highway Capacity Software Plus) module implements the recently approved procedures in the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) Chapter 26 for Interchange Ramp Terminals. HCS+ interchange files can be imported into TRANSYT-7F, which is a traffic signal timing software, for generating TSIS-CORSIM (Traffic Software Integrated System - Corridor Simulation) files for one-touch animation. TSIS-CORSIM is a microscopic traffic simulation software package for signal systems, freeway systems, or combined signal and freeway systems; and
  • teach students how to use both software packages and solve real world problems.


With the CTE grant support, the following activities occurred during Spring and Summer 2009:  

  • Purchased HCS+T7F and TSIS-CORSIM software packages from McTrans Center, University of Florida;
  • Installed both software packages in the instructor’s office computer and the computer lab located in Hibbs Hall 0407;
  • Received the McTrans Center-sponsored HCS+T7F training held in Boston;
  • Developed new course materials, which consist of instructional component (presentations and reading materials) and hands-on workshop component (lab exercises and data sets). Lab exercises include CUBE software, highway capacity analysis (HCS+T7F, TSIS-CORSIM), and others;
  • Utilized the Wimba Classroom teaching method in Fall 2009 to accommodate the special demand of 2 online students who registered for this course.


The course announcement sent to prospective students in Spring 2009 already included the contents of CTE-funded highway capacity analysis, microsimulation technology, and operational analysis, besides conventional modeling approaches. As a result, the student enrollments of this modeling course dramatically jumped to 10 in Fall 2009, clearly demonstrating the initial success of this CTE small grant. See Table 1 for details. It is believed that this course will achieve even higher student enrollments in Fall 2010.

Table 1 Student Enrollments of the Transportation Modeling Course


Course Number

Course Title


Spring 2008

URSP 691

Transportation System Modeling


Fall 2008

URSP 691

Transportation Analytics and Modeling


Fall 2009

URSP 626

Transportation Analytics and Modeling



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Last modified: June 20, 2013
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