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Can Intelligent Traffic Lights Ease Toronto's Gridlock?

Faced with paralyzing gridlock, North America's fourth-largest city is studying several potential solutions for easing congestion - including traffic lights that think for themselves.
March 25, 2013, 6am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Oliver Moore looks at some of the potential solutions, technical and behavioral, for easing Toronto's $6-billion gridlock problem, which is among the worst in North America. One such solution is University of Toronto professor Baher Abdulhai’s intelligent traffic light project, which "marries cameras with computers to create traffic lights that can measure vehicle flow, understand what it means, and adapt signal patterns to reduce gridlock."

"Of course, traffic isn’t all bad," adds Moore. “Some congestion is a sign of vibrancy,” says Prof. Abdulhai in the draft of an upcoming report for the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario, “but too [much] congestion has many negative consequences. … The good news is that there are plenty of approaches to address congestion, traditional and non-traditional, technical and non-technical.”

"No major city is free from traffic problems, and urban planners say that the situation, while frustrating, is a sign of a healthy community," says Moore. "So along with all the congestion-busting ideas, the necessary final ingredient may be a different public attitude – a change in what we consider acceptable."

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Published on Saturday, March 23, 2013 in The Globe and Mail
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