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Systems in Operation


Toronto (Highway 401) Compass System

The Highway 401 Compass System within Toronto went into operation in early 1991. The initial section covered 16 kilometres through the centre of Toronto between Martin Grove Road and Yonge Street. Highway 401 is the "main street" for many Toronto commuters, and has a unique express/collector configuration and a cross-section with a minimum of 12 lanes. Some sections carry in excess of 430,000 vehicles on an average day.

Photo of Highway 401 rush hour traffic congestion

Over the years, the Compass System has been continuously evaluated, enhanced and expanded. The current system stretches from the Highway 403/QEW interchange to Highway 401/410 interchange and easterly to Harwood Avenue, including some sections of adjoining highways for a distance of approximately 110 km. As of December 2010, the Toronto system is made up of 93 CCTV cameras, 42 LED type variable message signs, 761 vehicle detection stations and over 3933 vehicle detectors to help manage traffic on Highway 401/400/403/404/427/410.

Traffic Management Strategies

The GTA Compass System employs four traffic management strategies that complement each other:

Effective traffic management on busy urban freeways such as Highway 401 begins with timely detection and confirmation of traffic incidents or slowdowns. Incident management procedures that provide coordinated on-site activities by emergency response personnel can preserve and protect human life, maintain a reasonable level of safety for all participants, minimize delay to the travelling public and minimize damage to public/private property. Timely and accurate traffic condition information must be supplied to motorists to allow them to choose an alternate route and lessen their chances of collision with stopped vehicles ahead. Compass combines all of the above strategies, and has produced significant benefits.

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Mississauga (QEW) Compass System

The Mississauga Compass System, constructed on the Queen Elizabeth Way in 1975, was the first system installed in Ontario. It was designed to smooth the flow of traffic between Erin Mills Parkway and Hurontario Street, where large number of vehicles entering the freeway during morning rush hours created stop-and-go driving conditions.

In 2000, the Mississauga COMPASS Traffic Operations Centre was closed and the equipment on QEW through Mississauga was integrated into the Burlington system.

Traffic Management Strategies

The Mississauga Compass System employs five traffic management strategies that complement each other:

Photo of a QEW ramp metering station

Demand Management

Unique to the Mississauga Compass System is the use of Ramp Metering as a demand management strategy. Vehicle access to the freeway is regulated through the use of ramp metering signals on interchange ramps. These computer-controlled signals, which look like standard traffic signals, allow vehicles onto the freeway at a specified rate to maintain optimum traffic flows. At the same time, queue detectors prevent backups on the access ramps. Experience shows that ramp metering shortens overall trip times for motorists, even though there are short waits at the ramp signals. On the QEW, ramp metering has been placed on eastbound access ramps between Ford Drive and Cawthra Road. It only operates for about three hours in the morning on weekdays, yet makes a significant contribution towards improvement of traffic flows on the freeway.

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Burlington Compass System

Photo of Burlington Skyway and Eastport Drive lift bridge

The Burlington Compass System was installed in 1986 for the purpose of alleviating traffic congestion, particularly during construction activities and peak traffic times on the Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway. It soon proved its worth by enabling operators to quickly detect traffic slowdowns, disabled vehicles and collisions. The result was a reduction in traffic congestion, accidents, and delays on the Skyway corridor.

Traffic Management Strategies

The basic components of the Burlington Compass System are the same as the other systems. It utilizes the following traffic management strategies:

Unique to the Burlington Compass System is an interconnection with the lift bridge on the parallel arterial road. In the event of high winds or major incidents, the operator can direct traffic to bypass the Skyway using the lift-bridge and Eastport Drive. A communications link between the lift-bridge operator and the Compass control centre allows the operator to know when the bridge will be lifted so that this information can be used in making system bypass decisions and to inform drivers of the lift-bridge status.

As of December 2010, the system consists of 92 CCTV cameras, 12 variable message signs and 280 vehicle detector stations.

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Ottawa (Highway 417) Compass System

The Ottawa Compass system was first installed in 1997 and has since been expanded and improved, enhancing the quality of images suitable for Internet dissemination. This system provides a basic incident management system with a minimum of infrastructure. The complete system provides video coverage along approximately 21 km of Highway 417 from Highway 416 in the west to Regional Road 174 in the east. As of December 2010, the system consists of 15 CCTV cameras mounted on 50-60 foot poles along Hwy 417.

Similar to other Compass systems, the Ottawa system enables operators to quickly detect traffic slowdowns, disabled vehicles and collisions. Incidents are therefore cleared quickly by dispatching the appropriate response crews as soon as the Compass operator becomes aware of it.

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