The paper proposes a “quasi-dynamic” framework for estimation of origin–destination (o–d) flow from traffic counts, under the assumption that o–d shares are constant across a reference period, whilst total flows leaving each origin vary for each sub-period within the reference period. The advantage of this approach over conventional within-day dynamic estimators is that of reducing drastically the number of unknowns given the same set of observed time-varying traffic counts. Obviously, the gain in accuracy depends on how realistic is the underlying assumption that total demand levels vary more rapidly over time than o–d shares. Firstly, the paper proposes a theoretical specification of the quasi-dynamic estimator. Subsequently, it proposes empirical and statistical tests to check the quasi-dynamic assumption and then compares the performances of the quasi-dynamic estimator of o–d flows with both classical off-line simultaneous dynamic estimators and on-line recursive Kalman filter-based estimators. Experiments are carried out on the real test site of A4–A23 motorways in North-Eastern Italy. Results confirm the acceptability of the assumption of quasi-dynamic o–d flows, even under the hypothesis of constant distribution shares for the whole day and show that the quasi-dynamic estimator outperforms significantly the simultaneous estimator. Data also suggest that using the quasi-dynamic estimates instead of the simultaneous estimates as historical o–d flows improves significantly the performances of the Kalman filter, which strongly depends of the quality of the seed o–d flows. In addition, it is shown that the aggregation of quasi-dynamic o–d estimates across subsequent time slices represents also the most effective way to obtain o–d estimates for larger time horizons (e.g. hourly estimates). Finally, a validation based on an hold-out sample of link flows (i.e. counts not used as inputs in the o–d estimation/updating process) revealed the quasi-dynamic estimator to be overall more robust and effective with respect to the other tested estimators
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