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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.

How do I report a traffic signal burnt out?
Please contact 311.
How do I request a change in the traffic light timing?
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.

To request a change in traffic light timing, please contact 311.

How do I request information about the traffic lights at the time of an accident?
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.

It is not possible to report the exact time of the beginning and end of every green light.

To request information about the current operation of a traffic signal, please contact 311.

How do I obtain construction clearances (approaches, utilities)?
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 contact 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.

What are the radar devices located on top of the traffic lights for?
The Traffic Signals Branch uses radar devices to detect vehicular traffic. Radar devices can be 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 radar device 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 radar device 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.

How do the advanced transit lights work?
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.

How many signalized intersections are there in Winnipeg?
The City of Winnipeg has 671 signalized intersections.
Is it possible for two conflicting directions of traffic at a signalized intersection to receive green lights at the same time?
It is actually not possible for two conflicting movements of traffic to have green and/or amber lights at the same time. There are a number of safety features that prevent this exact condition from occurring. Even if a number of these features were to fail and the controller of the intersection were to try to have conflicting movements green at the same time, there is another piece of equipment called a "conflict monitor" that is designed specifically to detect and prevent this from occurring. If the conflict monitor "sees" a potential conflict, it puts the entire intersection into flashing operation, and the intersection will stay that way until a technician has been able to fix the problem.
What is traffic signal coordination?
Traffic signal coordination is when two or more traffic signals are working together so that cars moving through the group of signals will make the least number of stops possible.
Does traffic signal coordination mean that I will never have to stop for a red light?
No. There are many reasons why you will still have to stop at red lights. Each of the reasons has to do with the amount of time available for the green light in your direction.

Pedestrian Crossings: For safety, enough time must be allowed for a pedestrian to cross the street from curb-to-curb, walking at a pace of about three to four feet per second. The pedestrian crossing time can often exceed the time required by vehicles at minor cross streets. Long pedestrian crossing times often reduce the available green time along major routes, particularly crossings of wide streets such as Bishop Grandin or Kenaston Boulevard.

Cross Traffic: Like pedestrian crossings, enough time must be allocated to clear the waiting traffic on the cross street. The heavier the cross traffic, such as experienced near schools and businesses, the more time that is needed to clear them through the intersection and the less time that is available for the green light in the "coordinated" direction.

Left-Turn Signals: Where left-turning traffic is especially heavy and/or the amount of opposing traffic is so heavy that there are not enough gaps in the traffic to safely complete a left-turn, protected left-turn signals are usually installed. The amount of time for protected left-turning traffic also limits the time permitted for the "through" traffic flow in the opposite direction.

Two-Way Traffic Flow: The distance between traffic signals and the speed of the traffic determine the way in which the green lights at the next traffic signal line up. When the spacing is not equal between traffic signals, the green lights may only line up well in one direction. When this happens, the city tries to line up the green lights in the direction that has the most traffic. The traffic in the other direction may have to stop occasionally as a result.

Early Return to Green: When vehicle demand on a side street is low the main street reverts back earlier than expected to a green signal. This causes some vehicles to arrive earlier than anticipated at the next traffic signal.

Why does the pedestrian signal always show the "Flashing Don't Walk" before I've completed crossing the street?
The "Flashing Don't Walk" is a warning to people who have not yet entered the intersections that it's too late to safely cross the street before the traffic signal changes allowing cars to proceed. Signals are timed to allow plenty of time for people who have already started walking to safely cross the street.

What if I can't see the traffic signal?

There are a couple of scenarios where you may find there is no light or the light is blocked by something. Two examples would be a hydro outage or snow build-up.

Step 1: Look for an alternate signal. Most intersections have a minimum of two signal heads per direction. Note that dedicated turn signals have a black surround.

flashing amber

Step 2: If no lights are visible or you are unsure, you should treat the intersection as a four-way stop and proceed with extreme caution. You can always look at the pedestrian crossing light as a clue but remember, if you are struggling to see the signal light, most likely others are too. Treat as a four-way stop and take extra care.

How come the Pedestrian Countdown Signals don't always end at the same time as the adjacent green light?
Pedestrian Countdown Signals are meant for pedestrians and not motorists. While the majority of the time the end of the countdown corresponds with the end of the adjacent green light this is not necessarily the case. For streets that use vehicle detection to determine the end of the green light the actual amount of green time is unknown at the beginning of the phase. It can vary between a set minimum and a set maximum, with the maximum exceeding the pedestrian crossing time in some cases. In the case where there are no vehicles extending the green light, the green light will end at the same time as the countdown. When there are enough vehicles to trigger an extended green light the green light will end after the countdown reaches zero.
How long are the amber lights in Winnipeg?
Previously the duration of the amber light was 4 seconds at all intersections in the City. As of September 2020 the City will be using a calculated amber duration that increases with roadway speed limits and has a minimum of 4 seconds. The amber duration on 70 km/h and 80 km/h routes will be calculated based on the speed and longitudinal slope of the roadway. At a typical intersection on at 70 km/h and 80 km/h routes this will mean an increase to 4.3 and 4.7 seconds respectively. The calculated amber duration for 50 km/h and 60 km/h roadways is less than 4 seconds so they will remain unchanged.
When will all the traffic signals in the city have the new Amber light timings?
The changes to the amber light durations on 70 km/hr and 80 km/hr roadways were implemented during the week of August 31 to September 4, 2020. Amber light times on 50 km/hr and 60 km/hr roadways will remain at 4 seconds in duration.
Why aren't we making the amber light even longer?
Amber lights that are excessively long are inefficient, can cause confusion and encourage unsafe driver behavior. The increase in amber duration from 4 seconds to 4.3 and 4.7 at a typical intersection on high speed routes represents a balance between safety, efficiency and driver expectation.
Do longer amber lights make an intersection safer?
The duration of an amber light should be long enough so that vehicles, driving to road conditions, have enough time to comfortably slow down and stop before the intersection. Having an amber light that is the correct duration is one of many factors that contribute to the overall safety of the intersection. After the amber light, the City also uses an all-red duration which allows for vehicles that entered the intersection at the end of the amber enough time to clear before the next green light is displayed.
Last update: September 16, 2020

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