A Meso-Scale Petri Net Model to Simulate a Massive Evacuation along the Highway System
Natural disasters may require that the residents of the affected area be evacuated immediately using a potentially damaged infrastructure. In this paper, we developed a mesoscopic simulation modeling approach for modeling traffic flow over a large geographic area and involving many people and vehicles. This study proposed a novel model, namely, Colored Deterministic and Stochastic Petri Net (CDSPN), which can mesoscopically provide an individual vehicular traffic dynamic. Each vehicle has a unique identifier, speed, distance to go, assigned target, and a specific route. It also proposed a method to automatically construct a Petri net model that represents the evacuation of Guilford County (GC), North Carolina, from standard Geographic Information Systems (GIS) shapefiles. We showed that this model could successfully simulate the dynamics of hundreds of thousands of vehicles moving on the highway system towards pre-specified safe targets such as medical facilities, exit points, or designated shelters. The vehicles are assumed to obey traffic laws, and the model reflects the complexities of the actual highway systems. The developed software can be used to analyze in reasonable detail the evacuation process, such as identifying bottlenecks and estimating efficiency and the time needed. An explicit list of 18 assumptions is stated and discussed. The Petri net for GC evacuation is reasonably massive, consisting of 35,476 places and 43,540 transitions with 531,595 colored tokens, where each token represents a vehicle in GC. We simulate the evacuation, develop statistics, and evaluate patterns of evaluation. We found that the evacuation took about 8.7 h.