Waterloo Region Record
By Johanna Weidner
May 16, 2017
WATERLOO REGION — Waterloo Region plans to outfit all Grand River Transit buses with a device to control traffic lights.
“It gives transit vehicles a small advantage which makes transit services more attractive to commuters,” said Peter Zinck, assistant director of transit services.
The total cost would be $1.1 million, including installation and taxes, with $500,000 coming from a federal subsidy.
Currently, 30 buses are outfitted with the traffic signal priority units. They’re used on the iXpress Route 200 along the Hespeler Road and University Avenue corridors, and transit queue jump lanes that are located at three intersections along Hespeler Road.
Buying another 221 control units would outfit the remainder of the fleet, leaving 10 spares.
“The equipment needs to be on all vehicles because we move them around,” Zinck said.
The devices allow a bus running behind schedule in key areas to shorten red lights or extend green lights at intersections, activate transit-only signals at intersections with transit queue jump lanes, and to control gate systems at transit garages and other locations.
Planning and works committee chair Coun. Tom Galloway asked how much disruption the priority signals have on regular traffic.
“There’s a time frame for the system to recover,” Galloway said.
Thomas Schmidt, the region’s commissioner of transportation and environmental services, said it does not give buses automatic priority like with ambulances, and it’s only used at certain locations.
While there is some disruption to other vehicle traffic, Schmidt said that “we feel that overall there’s benefit.”
Transit signal priority minimizes delays, providing a shorter and more consistent trip time. Shorter trip schedules can reduce the number of buses allotted to a particular route, resulting in lower operating costs and increased customer satisfaction, said the report given to the committee on Tuesday.
All of the region’s traffic signal control equipment is outfitted with the system. Grand River Transit will work with the transportation division to determine the best locations for transit signal priority and mitigate the impact on traffic flow.
“They’ll be more locations through the region as transit grows,” Zinck said.
The plan, approved by the committee, will need final approval from council at its next meeting.