Using high-tech to improve traffic flow along Windsor corridor
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
WINDSOR, Ont. — Locally, it’s known as Truckers’ Tuesday. And Thursday might also be added to the endearing description. Because those are the two days of the week when the volume of truck traffic along Huron Church Road is at its heaviest.
These are among the findings in a pilot project launched by local city and economic development officials. They commissioned Kitchener-based Miovision to carry out a detailed high-tech study on Huron Church, which connects Hwy. 401 to the Ambassador Bridge, and which is the busiest trade corridor in Canada.
The project, which has seen the installation of three specialized cameras to measure traffic and types of vehicles using the six-lane road, has already resulted in a 20% increase in efficiency by better synchronizing traffic lights.
“What they wanted to do was to use data to get a really clear view of what’s happening along that corridor,” said Susan Anzolin, executive director of the local Institute for Border Logistics and Security. “So, when is the corridor most busy, what types of vehicles are being used along there, could they change their traffic signal patterns to better enable mobility along that corridor?”
Miovision, which has conducted traffic studies in more than 15,000 communities around the world and has a European office in Germany, installed its Miovision SmartView 360 degrees fisheye cameras at three Windsor intersections to give traffic planners real-time information.
The cameras count and separate types of traffic – from trucks to cars to cyclists – and feed the information into an algorithm, which helps planners decide how to increase efficiency.
“There is an awful lot of freight traffic and that’s impacting certainly the efficiency by which trucks are moving along that corridor,” Erin Skimson, Miovision’s vice-president of product development and corporate programs, said. “But it’s also impacting business locally.”
More than 10,000 trucks per day can use the corridor but Miovision discovered that Tuesdays and Thursdays seem to have peak traffic “where there is an enormous truck load all 24 hours of the day,” Skimson said.
In fact, Skimson, a seasoned traffic manager, couldn’t believe the amount of commercial traffic after she arrived in Windsor.
“The volume of trucking traffic that has to get through on those two days in particular is astonishing,” she said.
Tweaking traffic along Huron Church Road is important, even though the new Gordie Howe International Bridge is soon to get under construction. That bridge will likely take much of the commercial traffic off Huron Church Road.
“The Gordie Howe is going to be the most technologically advanced border crossing – that’s its mandate – but it’s not going to be open until the end of 2024,” Anzolin said. “So, what can we do to facilitate the movement of goods right now? And that’s by making sure our Huron Church Road is much more innovative.”
The project will harvest information that traffic planners could use in a variety of ways.
Not only could traffic light synchronization be tightened, but segregated truck lanes could be created. Or, working with the trucking and logistics industries – there have already been consultations with the Ontario Trucking Association and individual companies – shippers could be informed on the optimum times of days, and days of the week, to ship goods.
“If you want to ship something next week then when’s the best time to do it?” Anzolin said. “There’s enough data sets that we should be able to build algorithms to figure that out.”
Another possible improvement is green light extensions, such as what took place across the river in Detroit in a pilot along the busy commercial Larned Street corridor.
A green light extended up to 10 seconds saw a 22% reduction in the likelihood of stopping and a corresponding 20% reduction in fuel consumption.
Increasing movement even by these amounts can be significant economically.
“In conversations that we’ve had with trucking companies, they’ve noted that it costs about a dollar every time that truck has to push on its brakes and slow down and then speed up and accelerate,” Skimson said.