Traffic Signals FAQ
Traffic signals help keep motorists and pedestrians safe. They also pose many questions for citizens. Learn more about traffic signals from our FAQ below, or select an item from the left-hand menu for information specific to emergency vehicles and intersection cameras.
The Traffic Signals Branch conducts an engineering analysis of the need to change the existing timing plans. Key information such as traffic counts, timing plans for adjacent traffic lights, intersection layout plans, crosswalk distances for pedestrians, and speed limit information, is gathered to conduct the engineering analysis.
The purpose of the analysis is to investigate if the request made by the customer can be accommodated by the signal system. All traffic signals are timed as a system and more congestion can result if one traffic light along a road is inappropriately modified.
A work order for the technical staff to conduct the required changes in the field and notification to the customer is provided if the results of the study indicate that the request can be accommodated.
If the request cannot be accommodated, the customer is contacted and informed.
The process of investigating and/or implementing a request to modify or change the existing timing of a signalized intersection can take anywhere between four weeks to two months if the request does not involve adding new displays such as new left turn arrows. If this is the case the request may take up to one year to fully implement.
To request a change in traffic light timing, please contact 311.
A person may request information about the current timing of traffic signals or whether there has been a reported problem at a signalized intersection in the City of Winnipeg.
A request for this information has to be made in writing to the City of Winnipeg Public Works Department. The information will be provided within 4 weeks of the request being received by the Traffic Signals Branch. There is also a cost associated with this request.
The Traffic Signals Branch has underground equipment throughout the City and as such it is required to obtain a clearance from us before digging.
To obtain a Traffic Signals Clearance call 311. When you call you will be asked to provide your contact information and the location where you plan to excavate or dig.
A representative of the Traffic Signals Branch will be scheduled to attend the location (you will be informed of the date and approximate time of his/her arrival) and he/she will mark the location of where the city's underground equipment is approximately located. Please note that you should make arrangements with other utilities to obtain their underground clearances. More information is available on the Click Before You Dig website.
The activation of new traffic lights depends on many things. Most importantly it depends on when the work started. Usually the Traffic Signals Branch strives to activate all traffic lights on or before key dates such as the start of a new school year or before the end of year holiday season begins. However sometimes this is not possible due to unusual delays in our work.
The Traffic Signals Branch uses video cameras to detect vehicular traffic. The cameras are used to monitor many traffic lanes at a time.
Normally, one or more "loops" (detectors in the pavement) would be installed in each lane to detect traffic. The use of a single camera reduces the installation of these detectors and helps improve the operation of the traffic lights.
Many detector zones can be programmed or modified through using a camera without interrupting traffic or cutting the pavement. Because of these benefits the city is continuing to evaluate their use as a viable means of detecting and controlling the flow of traffic.
The Traffic Signals Branch installs a special transit light that helps buses "jump" the queue at many busy intersections.
These special lights are called "Transit Priority Signals" and they consist of a white vertical light that is on top of the green light on the right side of the signalized intersection.
The duration of the Transit Priority Signals is relatively short because the intent is to help bus drivers get a head start over the traffic next to them and get quicker access to that lane.
Currently, the City does not provide a list of new traffic lights or pedestrian corridors that are planned for installation. However, this is under consideration and could be implemented in the near future.
The City currently has 655 traffic lights.
Traffic lights are normally installed when traffic congestion gets to the point where motorists are not able to make their own choices to go through an intersection safely.
Traffic lights show motorists when it is their turn to move through an intersection. There are three critical components that affect how traffic lights work.
- First is the duration of the cycle length. The cycle length is how long it will take the traffic lights to serve every movement. The cycle length in Winnipeg during peak traffic periods varies between 90 and 120 seconds.
- Another parameter is the offset. The offset is more or less the time that motorists would take to travel from one intersection to another. This offset value is unique for each traffic light. This parameter makes the signal turn green just before the lead motorist of the queue reaches the traffic lights.
- The third parameter is actually a piece of hardware in the traffic light. It is the internal clock of the traffic light. The clock is there to insure that the traffic light changes the timing plans at the right time and on the correct days.
Changes in traffic during the year as well as new housing or commercial developments have an effect on the cycle length and offset. Damages to the sensors and other underground equipment also affect how traffic lights work. Power outages or collisions can create problems that are not easily noticed and that are hard to diagnose and resolve, sometimes resulting in prolonged outages.