Traffic monitoring cameras are used to monitor roadways to respond to incidents, monitor congestion, and to respond to emergencies. These cameras are not used for security, law enforcement or municipal licensing enforcement purposes. Expressway cameras are generally installed on 15 m poles. Arterial cameras are typically installed on the top of traffic signal posts or on mast arms. All cameras are monitored on an around-the-clock basis by staff at the City’s Traffic Operations Centre (TOC). Traffic cameras collect anonymous information on a transitory basis and do not store identifiable personal information or identifiable vehicle data.
RESCU operators have full control of the cameras for effective roadway monitoring. When the operators detect an incident or congestion, they will alert motorists by displaying an advisory message on the City’s Variable Message Signs (VMS) and, if necessary, they will inform Toronto Police Services (TPS) of an event that requires Emergency Services response. The operators have the capability to block the cameras from external subscribers when Emergency Services are responding to an incident or if there is a risk of compromising someone’s privacy.
The City of Toronto only monitors cameras that are installed on City roads. Cameras on Highways 401, 427, 404 and Queen Elizabeth Way are owned and monitored by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO). Still images of the MTO cameras are available.
Recognizing that the installation of cameras at signalized intersections could raise privacy concerns from the public, Transportation Services staff consulted with staff from the City’s Information & Technology Division, Legal Services and the City Clerk’s Office to develop a Traffic Monitoring Camera Policy that outlines the purpose and appropriate use of these traffic cameras. All camera video feeds are brought back to the TOC and displayed on its video wall monitors. Still images of Toronto’s cameras are available on a map and on Open Data – these images are refreshed every 2-3 minutes.
The first traffic monitoring cameras (also known as RESCU Cameras) were installed by the City of Toronto in 1993 as part of the Road Emergency Services Communications Unit (RESCU) system to monitor traffic conditions on the Gardiner Expressway-Lakeshore Boulevard corridor.
Traffic cameras were eventually installed along the Don Valley Parkway and Allen Rd.
In 2001, limited traffic camera monitoring of the City’s signalized intersections began at four locations and eventually expanded to 10 signalized intersections by 2014.
Then in 2015, the City embarked on an aggressive program to expand its Traffic Monitoring Camera network to major arterial roads to better monitor the city-wide transportation network.