There are two main types of Traffic Signal Prioritization, often referred to as Traffic Signal Preemption:

  • Firehall Preemption
  • Transit Preemption

Firehall Preemption

Getting to the scene of a fire or another emergency situation as quickly and safely as possible means saving lives. That’s the reason the City of Toronto has put in place a system to allow the fire division to temporarily affect traffic lights in order to get to an emergency even faster.

It works this way. A push button, which activates the traffic signal, is located in the radio room or in the truck bays at the fire hall. Once activated, the traffic signals are programmed to allow emergency vehicles to move quickly and safely on their way. In all, 50 traffic control signals are equipped with these circuits. These signals are located at either fire station exits or close to the stations. Once the emergency vehicles have passed through the traffic signals, the traffic lights return to their regular sequence.

Transit Preemption

A similar program is in place to allow TTC vehicles to move more effectively around the city. Transit vehicles are detected as they approach an intersection by antennas embedded in the pavement about 50-250 meters in front of the intersection. This allows a signal controller to make a change to the signal to allow the transit vehicle to proceed more efficiently.

The installation cost can vary from $10,000 to $60,000. The majority of the cost is related to the hardwire or wireless interconnect from the pushbuttons in the firehall to the cabinet at the intersection. The wireless connections are cheaper and faster to install.

Toronto’s existing signals infrastructure does not support this technology. A huge capital investment would be required to upgrade the existing infrastructure and to install transmission/receiving equipment on the fire trucks.

Pedestrian crossing times are always protected. They are not affected by preemption.