How the City is using (and not using) smart data to help tame traffic in Toronto

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Sept. 26, 2016

A new way to help control traffic is on the way in Toronto, Mayor John Tory told reporters on Monday. “The whole basis of this new technology… rather than using sensors that are in the pavement, it actually picks up the traffic flow by itself and takes account of that and changes the signals on a real time basis, based on the traffic flow.” City staff described this new technology, not yet procured, as involving sensors on polls and a software that will make real-time adjustments at major intersections near where there has been an incident. “There’s algorithms that will determine based on the volume of traffic in real time how to adjust the traffic signals,” Director of Transportation Myles Currie explained after the announcement.

Currently, the City is using third-party data it’s purchased from Inrix, a technology company that analyzes data from mobile apps like Waze, as well as from live traffic gathered from car navigation systems from 14 auto makers. The data being used by the City is considered historical from 2014 and 2015, not real-time data in 2016. However, real-time traffic and congestion data from Inrix is being used by other companies in Toronto. According to a post on the website for the research consulting company PSFK, digital billboards on the DVP use real-time congestion data to adjust the speed of the advertisement.  

Unrelated to the Inrix data, Uber is also collecting traffic information as part of the mapping work they are doing in Toronto, according to a post written by Manik Gupta head of product, maps at at Uber.

The purpose of Monday’s announcement was to detail how the City of Toronto is taking action to improve the flow of traffic at the top 10 most congested intersections, or “hotspots,” in Toronto, as part of the second phase of the City’s Congestion Management Plan. The City has posted a list of the actions and implementation dates for each “hotspot intersection” on their website.

10:36 a.m., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. City Councillor Shelley Carroll (right) stands behind Mayor John Tory as he points to traffic signals at Victoria Park and Finch Ave. East at a traffic improvements announcement.
10:36 a.m., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. City Councillor Shelley Carroll (right) stands behind Mayor John Tory as he points to traffic signals at Victoria Park and Finch Ave. East at a traffic improvements announcement.
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