Volume 20 | issue nº 1 Spring 2018

Cross-Town Traffic

By Alyce Abi Shdid

More in this issue

An LAU engineering professor is among those trying to find a solution to Lebanon's seemingly hopeless traffic situation

Every driver in Lebanon has experienced it: the bumper-to-bumper, seemingly endless stream of cars that makes reaching the destination seem impossible.

The traffic problem in Lebanon is a serious one from multiple angles. Although driver frustration may be the most obvious, dangers to the safety of both passengers and pedestrians are a major public-health risk. As part of a leading research institution committed to serving both students and Lebanon at large, LAU Associate Professor of Civil Engineering John Khoury has taken up Lebanon’s traffic problems as his main focus of research, with the goal of improving the current situation.

Khoury’s 12-plus years of experience in transportation and traffic engineering position him to guide Lebanese authorities in finding solutions to the worsening situation on Lebanon’s roads. As a registered professional traffic operations engineer in the US, Khoury is no stranger to handling busy intersections, inefficient traffic signals, poor arterial highway design, and roadways with failing traffic-service levels.

“The traffic problem in Lebanon is a serious one—one that demands our attention in order to find appropriate solutions,” Khoury said. “Our research aims to provide solutions that make driving in Lebanon less frustrating and more safe.”

To combat these and other threats to Lebanon’s drivers and pedestrians, Khoury and his research team are deploying a varied set of tools.

Like other engineering disciplines, traffic engineering has taken advantage of computer simulation, in which users apply multiple-solution schemes and can compare, tweak and re-test models, making final implementation more successful. For example, Khoury collected data from the 210 intersections with operating signals in various locations throughout Mount Lebanon and the greater Beirut area. Running it through simulation software has allowed him and his team to improve service levels for 80 intersections to date – an achievement that reduces the number of problematic junctions by more than 30 percent.

Also through the use of computer simulation, Khoury was able to monitor the timing of traffic signals in order to make adjustments that will minimize congestion, regulate the flow of traffic, reduce drivers’ frustration, and improve overall roadway safety.

Khoury’s latest research involves the use of advanced driver-simulation technology within LAU’s new Driving Simulation Lab. The driving simulator consists of a full-size car cab outfitted with sensors and surrounded by LCD displays, intended to re-create the driving experience on Lebanon’s roads. Khoury and his team are using this state-of-the-art technology to study drivers’ behavior and their reactions to real-life situations in order to optimize the flow of traffic and improve safety.

Kamar Amine, a master’s student working under Khoury’s supervision, is hopeful that this research will make a difference.

“I personally experience the frustration of driving on Lebanon’s roads every day, so it is rewarding to know that I am a part of research that is redefining traffic conditions in Lebanon that will eventually improve the issues that drivers face.”

Drivers and local authorities are noticing the results. Captain Rayen El Chammas, head of the Beirut-area Internal Security Forces branch, commented, “After Dr. Khoury retimed the intersections along the Cornich el-Mazraa, flow through the corridor improved noticeably. My team and I were able to feel the improvements, which eased our stressful work in the field.”

“The motivating factor behind my work is the knowledge that every finding my research produces is improving the current traffic situation in Lebanon,” Khoury said.