PBBI’s Paramics Brings Simulation Closer to GIS

by Matt Ball on August 15, 2011

Quadstone Paramics is a traffic simulation software that has been modeling transportation infrastructure and running models on any type of transportation for the past 18 years. This software tool is used by city engineers and planners to design more efficient, green friendly, and pleasant infrastructure from point of driver or pedestrian. The software was acquired by PBBI in July of 2010 as part of a larger acquisition, and fits nicely with PBBI’s MapInfo location intelligence tools, proving a tangible link between traditional GIS and more detailed transportation analysis and simulation.

The data in the typical traffic simulation model includes the road schematics, census data on car use, socioeconomic data on home to work journey, and other demographic data. The interface and connectivity with GIS is about sharing information about traffic and people. Sample analysis scenarios include the calculation of the impact on journey time after a new piece of road network has been created or the passenger numbers impact on drive times for new retail outlets. Paramics simulation and analysis provides an added level of detail to  pinpoint exact travel times, with well-established models that provide a greater degree of certainty than just GIS analysis.

Here simulated traffic flow from a stadium is shown using an exponential color scale.

An increasing area of interest with these simulation tools is for capital cost planning. The tools help planners determine such details as the number of lanes actually needed, with forecasts 10 or 20 years into the future. Given tight budgets and the need to get it right the first time, the savings can be extensive.

There has been a coarsely cut relationship between simulation and GIS, but the disconnect is being eroded. With the PBBI acquisition, there is an increasing realization that GIS provides a good platform for sharing the information in a tangible ways for those that aren’t specialists or engineers. GIS, and particularly web-based mapping, makes simulation more accessible to the public.

“The great thing about GIS is that standards for integration are very well defined,” according to Ewan Speirs, head of Paramics Development. “It makes it easy for a complex system to be published easily to different platforms.”

Evacuation planning is one area with tight integration with GIS, such as a the simulation of an island town evacuated if there was a hurricane or severe flooding. Typically this analysis is done with GIS tools to calculate evacuation times, routes, and where you might move people out with the road network. What is missing is an understanding of the road network’s ability to keep the people moving, as most times there is an evacuation the traffic gets gridlocked.

The paramics tools allow scenario planning that allow planners to work out of a strategy to let the most vulnerable to get out of the way first. GIS provides the reference points down to the household level, with the Paramics simulations tools used to test individual segments of road to see how they stand up to individual loads of stress.

Watch the video below to get a sense of the level of detail and interaction in the simulation models in a planning scenario for Buenos Aires.

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