Keeping traffic moving in Halton Region
Halton Region operates and maintains the regional traffic signal system. It also manages the signal timings on all Regional Roads.
To optimize signal timing, Halton Region:
- Has an Annual Corridor Review Program
- Replaces and updates signal hardware with newer, smarter technology
- Updates traffic signal timings as needed
- Uses a formal communication network
- Completes an annual speed and delay review of corridors
How traffic signals work
Traffic signals coordinate so vehicles can move along a street without stopping at every light.
This can be challenging with two-way streets, big intersections and lots of traffic.
A computerized traffic control system monitors, coordinates and communicates with intersection traffic lights.
There are three types of traffic signal operations:
- Fixed timed – signals are pre-set and cycle even without vehicles or pedestrians present.
- Semi Actuated – signals change if a vehicle or pedestrian is on the side street. Signal times vary with traffic and have minimum/maximum values.
- Fully Actuated – signals change with minimum/maximum green times. This depends on traffic and pedestrian demand on all approaches.
Most traffic signals at Regional intersections are either semi or fully actuated.
There are two ways to determine if a car is waiting in an intersection:
- A detector loop embedded under the road.
- Or a mounted video camera on the signal pole.
A detector loop is a wire coil that’s connected to the controller equipment.
- This electrical loop creates a small electrical field.
- When a car drives over the loops it sends a message to the controller and the controller responds.
Vehicles should always stop at the white stop bar painted on the road so that the detector loops can activate and change the signals.
Pole mounted video detection cameras use video technology to detect a vehicle.
Did you know?
- Traffic volume and expansion along Regional Road corridors is increasing.
- Halton Region uses a computer optimization program and recent traffic counts to improve signal light timing.
- Different timing plans are developed to manage traffic flow changes throughout the day.
- The posted speed limit is used to coordinate timings along Regional Roads.
- Many factors can impact timings, including:
- Emergency vehicle preemption
- Pedestrian volume
- Traffic volume
- Emergency detours
- Direction of traffic
- Distances between signals
- Equipment malfunctions
- Disobeying the speed limit
- Distracted driving
- Incidents on freeways/bypass traffic
Frequently asked questions
- It’s a balancing act.
- Signal timings try to move traffic fairly in all directions.
- Vehicle detector loops are installed in the pavement.
- Loops use an electric signal to identify when a vehicle is waiting.
- Video detection, radar detection or microwave detection can also be used
- No. The number of vehicles waiting is not counted.
- You might reset the system and wait longer.
- No. The pedestrian push button does not make the light turn green sooner.
- You can make the green light last longer. It takes a person longer to walk across a street than it takes for a car to drive across a street.
- Left-turn green arrows can work differently during specific periods of the day.
- Sometimes they only operate during rush hours when demand is highest.
- Detector loops or video detection is used to detect left-turning vehicles to keep traffic moving.
- Traffic signals coordinate to get the most vehicles through with the fewest stops and delays.
- Safety and efficiency are priorities.
- Effectiveness is influenced by:
- Spacing of the signals along the road
- Speed of traffic
- Vehicle or pedestrian demand
- Traffic signal cycle length
- The busiest corridor has priority.
Traffic signals are timed to keep roads moving.
Benefits of Traffic Signals
- Reduce congestion and delays
- Save time
- Reduce fuel costs
- Reduce air pollution
- Save fuel
- Reduce rear end collisions