City staff would consider traffic signals only after lesser forms of control, such as stop signs,  yield signs or pedestrian crossovers have proven to be ineffective. City staff follow the Ontario Traffic Manual (OTM) Book 12 (2012) guidelines to determine whether a traffic signal is necessary.

There are several reasons why a traffic signal might be needed. One reason is if residents feel that a pedestrian crossover on a particular street is not safe. Sometimes, residents express a concern about crossing a street where no crossover exists. Occasionally, motorists will request a traffic signal when they are having difficulty entering traffic on a main street from a smaller street.

When programmed for optimum timing efficiency, signals can increase the traffic handling capacity of an intersection, and can reduce the occurrence of angle, or ‘broadside’ collisions. However, they are not the solution to all traffic woes since rear-end accidents can increase when a traffic signal is installed.

Rear-end collisions may increase when a signal is installed. Normally, City staff are willing to trade off an increase in rear-end collisions for a decrease in the more severe angle-type accidents. However, when there is no angle-type accident problem at an intersection, a traffic signal may actually raise the number of accidents at an intersection.

Traffic signals make traffic flow smoother and safer when they are installed in accordance with the justifications stipulated in Ontario Traffic Manual Book 12. When used at an intersection where installation is not justified, signals can cause frustration in drivers, who may then seek alternate routes. These routes usually are not built to handle increased traffic flow. In addition, drivers frustrated by unnecessarily long waits at signals may begin to disobey the law. Traffic control devices are most effective when perceived as reasonable by the motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians that use them.

A new signal installation costs between $180,000 and $250,000 per installation. The cost is dependent on certain factors.

  • Mode of Control – Semi-actuated signals require detection devices at the intersection. Midblock pedestrian signals need less equipment.
  • Phasing – Left turn arrows require additional signal equipment and detection devices.
  • Traffic system – SCOOT (traffic adaptive) requires additional equipment in the cabinet and detection upstream of the intersection. TransSuite (traffic responsive) requires system detection.
  • Utilities – Avoiding/relocating existing utilities such as gas, cable, hydro, water, sewage and telephone.
  • Intersection geometry – Offset and skewed intersections require more signal equipment.
  • Intersection spacing – Closely spaced intersections require adjacent signals to be hardwire interconnected.
  • Communication – Telephone lines are required for remote monitoring of signal operations.
  •  Special features – Transit priority, rail pre-emption, firehall pre-emption and accessible pedestrian signals require specialised equipment.

The yearly maintenance cost is between $10,000 – $15,000 per installation.  Drivers also have increased costs for fuel, time delay, and accidents. This adds to the reasons for installing signals only where clearly justified.

Contact 311 and provide details of your request. Once a call is received, staff begins an investigation into the situation. A study of traffic volumes on the road is completed (including rush hour traffic). This is often followed by a pedestrian study where all forms of pedestrian traffic (children, adults and seniors) is compiled. The goal is to find out who is using the road and for what purpose.

Staff also looks at speed of vehicles that travel the road and other land uses in the area such as TTC, school crossings, etc. In addition, a collision history of the area from police records is compiled and a pattern of the type of collisions is investigated to see if a traffic signal might have helped to prevent such collisions.

Once the study is complete, staff evaluates the information and compares it to the provincial guidelines which determine if a traffic signal is warranted for the area in question.