Burlington’s Traffic Headaches

Burlington has for a long time been an automobile dominated city.  This has led to many headaches with regards to congestion. Sprawling development brings an undoubted rise in traffic; with the growth in neighborhoods there is also an increase in traffic lights.  All of this has led to congestion headaches.

In his State of the City address, Mayor Rick Goldring announced upcoming changes to the traffic signaling system that should be in place by the summer. Hopefully this will address some of the problem intersections in the city.

walksignalsWhen the question was put towards Burlington Lifestyle’s Facebook users, the response was fast and furious.  One of the big problem areas mentioned was the north/south route on Appleby Line. “If you hit one red light on Appleby or Walkers, you hit them all,” said Mindy Karins.  While Walkers Line has its issues, Karins pointed out that traveling from one end to another on Appleby can take almost 30 minutes some days.

Lights at Appleby and Corporate and Appleby and Upper Middle were mentioned as being key areas of frustration.  Due to Corporate being considered a side street, the lights will run on a slightly different system that at Upper Middle. Side street intersections rely solely on a sensor system. That means if you are waiting to turn north or south from corporate, the system must first recognize ether a break in traffic on Appleby or a buildup of enough cars on Corporate.  Then there is pedestrian traffic to factor into the equation as well.

The City of Burlington is in the process of upgrading to a new system that will allow them to better mitigate the traffic in the system. Jenny Setterfield is the Supervisor of Traffic Operation and Signals; she  said that they have changed 70 of 200 signals so far, the process is expected to be completed by May. The change is labour intensive because of the parts being changed.

There will not be an immediate change after installation.  As it is in most cases, it takes time for a new system to start working.  The new system will allow, “A greater interface with staff, allowing them to know more of what is going on, on the roads,” she said.

Kerry MacDonald Robinson questioned why signals on certain roads aren’t synchronized. “I don’t understand, they did it in Hamilton so why not here?” The upgrades being made will allow for the synchronization of lights along some of the major arteries.

Moving forwards after the Pan Am games, there will start to be changes made to signal times. With the new changes in place, time space diagrams will be created.  These diagrams allow controllers to manage times during morning and afternoon rush hour, something they were not able to do with the previous system.

There is change coming, although it will be sequential.  Like all change in suburban development it takes time to implement.  Setterfield feels strongly that this new system will help the city adjust the signal system to better accommodate a growing level of traffic.


About the Author James Gike