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Transport Modelling (CIV5133Z)

Course convenor: Prof Mark Zuidgeest (Department of Civil Engineering) (assisted by Prof Martin van Maarseveen of the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation)

Motivation for the course
Transport systems in modern cities, and the methods required to plan and manage them, have become increasingly complex. In particular a shift in passenger transport policy away from the supply of additional road capacity as the principle means of addressing transport problems, to an appropriate balance between infrastructure supply and the management of transport systems and the way passengers use them, has introduced significant additional complexities for travel demand modelling. Transport models are needed to anticipate the nature and extent of future urban passenger transport problems, and to predict the impact that alternative supply- and demand-side interventions might have in addressing these problems. Many current transport modelling methods were developed during a period of relative economic prosperity in the developed world, in order to facilitate the large-scale construction of inter- and intra-city freeways and arterials. These methods have limitations in estimating the consequences of strategies aimed at changing travel behaviour and at improving transport system operations. A new policy discourse requires the utilisation of a broader set of transport modelling tools. This course is intended to address that need.

Course objectives
The objective of this course is to understand transport modelling principles and to develop skills in working with these models. The course explores the theories behind transport modelling, as well as the applicability of different models for different scales, as well as different planning applications. The advantages and disadvantages of different approaches are discussed. The course exposes students to current developments in the field both locally and internationally.

Course structure and content
The course comprises four phases:

  • a pre-contact period of five weeks, involving some 30-40 hours of preparatory reading and assignments;
  • a week of intensive contact time at UCT, comprising 40-50 hours of formal lectures and class assignments;
  • a two-hour course test (on the Monday following the contact week), intended to evaluate students’ understanding of selected aspects of the material they have been exposed to during the contact week, and
  • a post-contact period of seven weeks, involving an assignment or assignments requiring about 100 hours of work.

The material presented during the contact period is structured around the following broadly sequential themes or topics:

  • Four-step model: trip generation; trip distribution; mode choice; and traffic assignment; mathematical theory; the calibration, validation and verification process
  • Transport modelling types and scales: macroscopic, mesoscopic and microscopic models; strategic and policy appraisal models; appropriateness of the use of models for different purposes and theoretical critiques
  • Traffic flow theory: capacity assessment; techniques for calculating levels-of-service; traffic speed-flow-density relationships; shockwave analysis; dynamic traffic management and elementary traffic control design

Formal presentations on these topics by both Programme staff and invited external specialists are interspersed with work on a group assignment, the product of which is presented and discussed on the last day of the course.

Readings for the preparatory assignment are issued about five weeks prior to the commencement of the contact period. Additional readings may be issued during the contact week or subsequently through the Vula on-line course worksite, together with the brief for the major post-contact phase assignment.

Contact week attendance
Students are expected to attend the contact week on a full-time basis, which will require them to be resident in Cape Town for its duration given that the daily timetable during this period will generally occupy the hours from 08h00 to 17h00. Attendance for the entire contact period is a requirement, and students who are absent for more than 20% of the contact period duration will not be allowed to complete the course.

Learning outcomes
Students who have completed the course successfully should:


  • be familiar with the available transport modelling methods, and their appropriate use in the various stages of the transport planning process;
  • be able to select appropriate modelling tools for specific transport problems, and should be familiar with the basic operation of these modelling tools; and
  • be able to interpret the results generated by different modelling tools.


The aggregate mark for this course is compiled as follows:

minor assignment based on preparatory reading 15%
group contact week assignment 10%
major post-contact phase assignment 50%
course test 25%

Students who do not obtain an aggregate mark of at least 50% for their preparatory assignment, course test and post-contact phase assignment will be deemed to have failed the course.