The need for smart signals across southern Ontario

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The Toronto Region Board of Trade (BOT) recently released a report on the movement of commercial goods through the Toronto-Waterloo corridor.

According to the report, $3 billion worth of goods travel through the corridor every day! Delays due to congestion on highways cause $500-$650 million in losses a year. Apparently the issue of congestion is causing GTA households an average of $125 a year.

So, what’s the answer? BOT suggests that available technologies aren’t being used or at least aren’t being used to their full potential.

“We need a comprehensive goods movement strategy that makes better use of existing infrastructure, new technology and land use planning around industrial lands, and develops a long term plan for goods corridors,” says Jan De Silva, President & CEO, Toronto Region Board of Trade. “It is incumbent upon policymakers from every party and level of government to ensure goods movement becomes a priority, or businesses, jobs and the region will suffer.”

Smart signals could definitely make a difference. If there were cameras and sensors embedded in the pavement, traffic could be guided in real time. For example, an advanced left-turn signal could be eliminated if there were no cars waiting to turn or a green light could be prolonged to give transport trucks more time to move through the intersection.

The report says that if only 35% of vehicles were connected to smart signals there would still be noticeable and significant benefits. Toronto did launch a pilot program last year at 22 intersections, testing two separate technologies along two major corridors. The goal is to figure out which one works best for larger-scale deployment.

So, Toronto is on the right track, but there are many municipalities from Waterloo to Toronto. Congestion can be caused anywhere in these towns and cities, so it’s crucial that different areas are exploring smart signal options that make sense for their current infrastructure.

There are other technology options, like how the Ontario Provincial Police and Halton Region are using drones to record traffic accidents. The data has reduced clearing times from 1-2 hours down to 15 minutes. Clearing congestion causing accidents in a timely manner is crucial to decreasing average travel times for the movement of goods and the average road user.

Also, if everyone had a fibre optic connection to their homes and businesses there would be a growing reduction in the need to travel for work, to meet with customers and suppliers, to go to school, and to receive healthcare. 

This would ultimately reduce congestion as well as wear and tear on road and transit infrastructure, saving people, businesses and governments hundreds of billions of dollars over time in capital and operating costs and lost productivity incurred today.

CPC frequently travels all around the GTA and southern Ontario to meet with different municipalities, from Chatham-Kent to Niagara Region, Hamilton, downtown Toronto, and out to Kingston. We know we would benefit from some smarter travel!

Campbell Patterson