JAN, 2019

What an Intelligent Transportation System is and Why it Actually Matters

The Transportation Division at the City of Saskatoon has developed a vision, a strategy, and a series of projects to improve traffic in our city with the use of technology.

This is done through creating an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), or a way to make the best use of the streets, sidewalks, traffic lights and freeways that we already have by creating connectivity, making our systems adaptable, and making information as open and accessible to residents as we can about routes and options.

This work helps to address problems such as delays caused by trains, Transit reliability, traffic flow on major corridors, and even the ability of emergency vehicles to get to a fire or to someone who needs help. Unlike an interchange that only affects traffic flow in a small section of our community,ITS can have an impact across the entire city for drivers, Transit users, and cyclists.

Some of the different projects that are planned to support this vision include:

Improve safety and reduce delays at rail crossings

This project would use sensors to measure the speed and length of trains near the city to estimate when they’ll arrive at different intersections and how long the delay should last. This information would then be shown on electronic signs near these intersections so that drivers could know to take a different route or that there will be a delay of a certain length. Information on incoming trains would also be available electronically, and this would be particularly helpful for emergency vehicles.

The cost to relocate all rail lines outside of the city would cost well over $1 billion, but this change would only cost $260-350K.

Improve sophistication of our traffic signals

This project will allow signals along major corridors to be coordinated so that so that we can respond in real-time to incidents and traffic counts, helping to improve traffic flow and safety.

Traveller information

An ITS would allow residents to make the best decisions for their route before they set out, including information on Transit, cycling options, and walking routes.This information could be available online, as an app, and would be released as open data so developers can use it in a variety of different ways.

Integrate traffic signals with Transit and emergency vehicles

This project will allow buses to more easily run on time and for emergency vehicles to be able to get to where they need to be more quickly.

For Transit, there will be traffic signal technologies that gives buses a priority at signalized intersections. This means that buses that are behind schedule will be able to catch up, and that there will be greater reliability for trips. The primary focus of this project will be Bus Rapid Transit, and additional corridors and bus routes could be added to expand transit priority signals in the future.

For emergency vehicles, key intersections along emergency response routes will be equipped to detect approaching emergency vehicles. This way the traffic signals can respond to this to let the emergency vehicle get through, saving precious time and helping to improve safety for everyone on the road. This change is currently estimated to cost $160-300K, and it has the potential to save lives and be the difference between a home burning down or not.

Better understand traffic flow and volumes

Creating an ITS in Saskatoon will allow us to collect data more easily about type of traffic, volume of traffic, and traffic incidents. This will provide information on locations and corridors that can be improved through optimized traffic signal timings, and will provide insight into different measures that can be implemented to further improve traffic flow (such as lane widenings or left-turn signals).

Prepare for automated vehicles

All of this work helps to set us up for automated and connected vehicles. We don’t know timelines for when these might be coming to Saskatchewan, but we do know that they will have a huge impact on traffic and how people get around our city.

If you’re interested in reading more about these plans, you can check out the City’s ITS Strategic Plan.

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