Date of Award

May 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Alan J. Horowitz

Committee Members

Yue Liu, Lingqian Hu


A relationship exists between the economy and the amount of traffic that is observed on

the nation’s roadways. Traffic patterns generally peak during times of economic

prosperity when people are spending more money and new homes and businesses are

being built. On the other hand, as the economy starts becoming more stagnant, people

travel less while home sales decrease and businesses close as fewer patrons shop.

What this thesis attempts to accomplish is to see if an Origin and Destination Estimation

technique is sensitive enough to pick up these economic trends of a region by using

traffic counts.

Two sets of traffic counts used in this thesis were obtained by the Wisconsin Department

of Transportation; with one set of the traffic counts recorded prior to the Great Recession

in 2007 and another set of traffic counts after the recession had ended. This provided a

perfect snapshot of the travel behaviors just as the economy was peaking and the travel

behaviors after the economy had recessed. In addition to the recession, the study area,

Southcentral Wisconsin, provides an interesting scenario as a large manufacturing plant

had closed down during the recession leaving thousands of people unemployed.

As this paper will show, economic patterns and trends of a region can been seen by

estimating origin and destinations using traffic counts. In turn, this also provides some

validation to Origin and Destination Estimation that has previously left many planners

and modelers’ skeptical of the technique.