Position weighted backpressure intersection control for urban networks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Decentralized intersection control techniques have received recent attention in the literature as means to overcome scalability issues associated with network-wide intersection control. Chief among these techniques are backpressure (BP) control algorithms, which were originally developed of for large wireless networks. In addition to being light-weight computationally, they come with guarantees of performance at the network level, specifically in terms of network-wide stability. The dynamics in backpressure control are represented using networks of point queues and this also applies to all of the applications to traffic control. As such, BP in traffic fail to capture the spatial distribution of vehicles along the intersection links and, consequently, spill-back dynamics. This paper derives a position weighted backpressure (PWBP) control policy for network traffic applying continuum modeling principles of traffic dynamics and thus capture the spatial distribution of vehicles along network roads and spill-back dynamics. PWBP inherits the computational advantages of traditional BP. To prove stability of PWBP, (i) a Lyapunov functional that captures the spatial distribution of vehicles is developed; (ii) the capacity region of the network is formally defined in the context of macroscopic network traffic; and (iii) it is proved, when exogenous arrival rates are within the capacity region, that PWBP control is network stabilizing. We conduct comparisons against a real-world adaptive control implementation for an isolated intersection. Comparisons are also performed against other BP approaches in addition to optimized fixed timing control at the network level. These experiments demonstrate the superiority of PWBP over the other control policies in terms of capacity region, network-wide delay, congestion propagation speed, recoverability from heavy congestion (outside of the capacity region), and response to incidents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-461
Number of pages27
JournalTransportation Research Part B: Methodological
StatePublished - Oct 2019


  • Backpressure
  • Decentralized control
  • Intersection control
  • Stochastic traffic flow
  • Urban networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation


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