Copyright © 2013 Hong-sheng Qi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Large scale traffic congestion often stems from local traffic jam in single road or intersection. In this paper, macroscopic method was used to explore the formation and propagation of local traffic jam. It is found that (1) the propagation of traffic jam can be seen as the propagation of traffic signal parameters, that is, virtual split and virtual green time; (2) for a road with endogenous flow, entrance location influences the jam propagation. With the same demand (upstream links flow and entrance flow), the upstream got more influence; (3) when a one-lane road is thoroughly congested, virtual signal parameters everywhere are the same as that at stop line; for a basic road, the virtual signals work in a cooperative manner; (4) phase sequence is one important parameter that influences traffic performances during peak hour where spill back of channelization takes place. The same phase plan for left-turn flow and through flow would be preferred; (5) signal coordination plays an important role in traffic jam propagation and hence effective network signal parameters should be designed to prevent jam from propagation to the whole network. These findings would serve as a basis for future network traffic congestion control.