Real-time anomaly detection of short-term traffic disruptions in urban areas through adaptive isolation forest

Jingqin Gao, Kaan Ozbay, Yu Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The escalating congestion impacts of short-term traffic disruptions, such as double parking or short-duration work zones, are gaining increased attention. This study introduces an enhanced isolation forest-based unsupervised anomaly detection algorithm to detect short-term traffic disruptions in urban areas. To enable the detection in real-time, a sliding window approach is introduced to allow the streaming data to be read and processed according to the window size. An adaptive threshold that automatically adjusts itself to overcome the limitations of the miss rate on local anomalies is shown to further enhance the model predictions. The proposed algorithm is empirically validated on four study sites in Manhattan, New York City. The experimental results demonstrate that the proposed unsupervised algorithm can effectively detect different types of traffic anomalies including accidents, work zones/road closures, traffic jams, double parking events and police activities. On all sites, the average detection rate is 81.1% for traffic jams and 89.6% for police activities, respectively. For three out of the four sites, the detection rate ranges from 71.4% to 100% for accidents, work zones and double parking. An optimizer using high-pass filter is also presented to further improve off-line detection. The primary advantages of this proposed computationally-efficient method are that its only required data input is travel time information and that it does not need labeled data for training, which make it highly deployable for real-time operational applications and can be easily adopted by other cities.


  • anomaly detection
  • high pass filter
  • isolation forest
  • short-term traffic disruption
  • traffic incident detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


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