Pilot project improves traffic flow on Huron Church Road

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell




Each time a trucker pumps the brakes during one of those traffic jams on Huron Church Road economic productivity is slowed along with the vehicle.

“It costs the transportation industry a dollar every time the driver brakes,” said Erin Skimson, Miovision’s vice-president of product management and corporate programs.

“It’s a major challenge for cities moving people and goods around and it’s growing.”

Those $1 brake taps add up quickly, let alone the drag on time and patience for anyone caught in the snarl of traffic.

To try and improve traffic flow along the busiest trade corridor on the Canada-U.S border, the city of Windsor engaged Miovision in a pilot project beginning last July.

The company installed visual and sensory equipment at three intersections between E.C. Row and the bridge.

“There’s been an improvement of 20 per cent in traffic flow in the first five months,” Skimson said. “That’s down to finding the infrastructure (traffic signals) wasn’t synchronized at its optimum.”

Skimson said Miovision has found similar problems with other city’s traffic infrastructure about 30 per cent of  the time.

The Kitchener-based company’s software collects visual and numerical data that differentiates between vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians to improve traffic flow. Since it’s inception in 2005, the company has worked in 17,000 municipalities.

In addition to Windsor, Miovision is creating 800 “smart intersections” in Detroit.

“The saying data is the new oil is a cliché, but it doesn’t mean it’s not true,” Skimson said.

“The data collected helps the city’s decision makers make validated decisions rather than just hope the changes you’re making are right. There’s value in data that can help neutralized the cost of a city’s services.”

In the case of Windsor, the choice of Huron Church Road for the pilot project was no accident.

“Because the economics of trades are so important here we wanted to focus on improving the flow across the border,” said Susan Anzolin, executive director of the Institute for Border Logistics and Security.

“We started with Huron Church and we’d like to next expand it to the Windsor-Detroit tunnel.”

Anzolin added the goal is to eventually have information sharing between the city of Windsor and Detroit.

Such logistics information is vital to a region dominated by an auto industry built on the “just-in-time” delivery model.

“How much is it worth to companies knowing exactly when the busiest 24-hour period at the bridge on a Tuesday-Wednesdays is exactly?” Skimson said. “Companies can adjust their shipping schedules or perhaps the city changes it traffic light synchronization for that period.”

In traffic flow improving projects in Florida and Charlottetown, P.E.I., the company was able to prove another old cliché — time is money — is also true.

The Florida project, involving 16 intersections, resulted in annualized savings of $2.3 million in time and fuel. The P.E.I. project saw travel time reduced by 22 per cent during the peak tourism season. That resulted in savings of $555,000 and a reduction of 3,700 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Skimson said the value of the data Miovision’s equipment collects is applicable to more than just trucking.

In areas of Detroit where smart intersections of have been created, the U.S. city has seen nearly a 20 per cent improvement in response times by emergency services. Regular traffic flow has also improved 30 per cent.

“More people are moving to urban areas looking for differentiated experiences,” Skimson said.

“Folks living in cities want to ride their bikes or e-scooters, walk or take public transit.

“Cities now have to  think about a far  broader constituency. If they don’t have data to understand current travel patterns, it’s really difficult to come up with solutions or how to deploy limited resources.”