With Transit Signal Priority Back On, Streetcars Moving Faster in Toronto

A pilot project in downtown Toronto shows improvements in travel times after the signal priority system is reactivated.
September 12, 2018, 11am PDT | Camille Fink
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Oliver Moore reports that transit signal priority is back in use in downtown Toronto, allowing transit vehicles to pass through intersections more quickly. The system was shut down last November at the start of a King Street pilot project to speed up streetcars, when the city implemented new traffic regulations preventing motorists from using the road as a thoroughfare.

The system uses transponders on approaching vehicles to hold green lights longer and to turn red lights to green faster. In July, the technology was turned back on, and travel times throughout the pilot area decreased anywhere from 30 seconds to over two minutes compared to the month before.

Moore points out that while streetcars are traveling faster with the technology in operation, other outcomes can pose challenges. “Fiddling with the length of a traffic signal can mess up vehicle flow on the intersecting streets and also reduce the crossing time available for pedestrians. And the effects may be prolonged since it can take a few light cycles to adjust back to the normal timing, only to have another streetcar come along,” says Moore.

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Published on Sunday, September 2, 2018 in The Globe and Mail
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