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From lines to lights: how Traffic Services keeps our city moving

This story is part of the City of Ottawa Service Reviews: an initiative aimed at ensuring our services are meeting your needs. Visit ottawa.ca/YourIdeas today.



Everyone in Ottawa uses our roads in some way, whether as a cyclist commuting to work, a student walking to school, or a delivery driver motoring all over town. Our Traffic Services team strives to keep everyone and everything moving safely and effectively through our city by:


  • Installing and maintaining signs and pavement markings

  • Monitoring traffic

  • Performing traffic investigations, inspections and counts

  • Analyzing collisions

  • Providing traffic and road safety engineering, traffic management and street lighting expertise

  • Designing and maintaining the operation of streetlights

  • Providing road closure special event permits

  • Assisting with storm recovery efforts by mobilizing temporary power at major signalized intersections and supporting our hydro partners in reinstating power

This infographic is a snapshot of the range and scale of traffic services installation and maintenance work in 2023.


Traffic Services’ beating heart


At the heart of the City’s traffic operations is the Traffic Control Centre. It operates from 6 am until 7 pm, Monday to Friday, with an on-call team available 24 hours day, seven days a week. Monitoring is also extended into evenings and weekends for special events that may cause significant disruptions to normal traffic patterns.


Bashir Mohamed, Analyst with Traffic Monitoring and Signal Control Systems, monitors the many screens and data input sources at the City’s Traffic Control Centre.


Seasonal flow of tasks and staff


Spring is here! Time to install new signage (once the ground thaws), repaint fading road lines and install bike lane delineators, among many other tasks on the City’s spring to-do list. This seasonal transition to spring/summer work typically occurs in April and to fall/winter work in November. It’s a multi-step change in the operation of some of our heavy equipment and the roles of some of our staff. It also requires coordination across various functions. For example, painting lines or installing temporary traffic calming measures can only be done following spring street sweeping, which is carried out by another Public Works team.


By doubling up the functions of some staff and machinery, we keep costs low and our staffing lean. This signals bucket truck is used year-round for signal work and, in the summer, for maintaining streetlights (cleaning, replacing bulbs, etc.).


Putting it on the line


Who would guess that there are more than 4.7 million metres – or 4,700 kilometres – of lines on Ottawa’s roads? Traffic Services paints and maintains all centreline, lane line and edge line markings. Twice a year, the team also paints the surface markings at traffic control signals, school crossings and stop sign intersections.


Some of the City’s line painters. There are also two trucks that paint lines and are on-the-job 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the painting season, from spring through fall, when it’s warm and dry enough.


Staying on top of planned and unplanned traffic conditions


You can stay on top of anything happening on our streets with a City webpage detailing any upcoming major traffic impacts. These are mostly related to planned construction and special events, like Canada Day celebrations. Our interactive traffic map also provides that information as well as timely data on unplanned impacts caused by collisions or weather events. In addition, the map pinpoints the locations of parking lots, park-and-ride lots, automated speed enforcement cameras, red light cameras and more.



Converting the entire town


Our streetlight conversion team recently finished replacing more than 58,000 streetlight fixtures with LED lighting and monitoring technology. The newer technology provides more consistent light, a prolonged life expectancy and less down time for each streetlight. The benefits include reduced light pollution, reduced energy consumption, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and substantial cost savings. Last week, the project and its team won the City’s Environmental Excellence Award for helping build a greener and more sustainable municipality.



It's all in the timing


Our operators continuously monitor traffic controls at the city’s more than 1,200 signalized intersections. Signal timing is set with the goals of:


  • Improving traffic flow

  • Keeping all road users safe

  • Reducing idling and the resulting emissions, to improve air quality


When needed, operators can immediately adjust the traffic signal timing and phasing for key intersections. When a problem is detected by the system or reported by the public, an operator resolves it or immediately dispatches it to maintenance crews.


Co-op student, Ivan Feng, puts together a traffic signal box that will be installed at an intersection.


Signs, signs, everywhere a sign


The City has many kinds of signs. We maintain more than 31,000 signs annually, including ones for speed limits, school zones, truck routes, parking and more.


Sign production is done in-house by a small and dedicated team, using different fabrication methods and more than 700 templates.


How data drives us


The City is increasingly data driven, as we aim to improve road safety for all and advance towards ‘vision zero’ – zero fatalities and major injuries on our streets. The City receives data on collisions that occur in Ottawa from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) on a continual basis. The data is validated through the City’s collision management system to ensure there are no errors or missing information. Available collision data is publicly released via OpenData Ottawa once validated.



The City also collects, validates and analyzes:


  • Vehicle speeds

  • Vehicle volume, both at intersections and mid-block

  • Vehicle direction at intersections, whether turning right or left or proceeding straight

  • Vehicle classification, such as regular vehicles, trucks or bicycles


The data is collected by equipment temporarily installed for the length of time observations are required, which may be as little as 24 hours. The data helps inform road safety programs, transportation planning, traffic investigations, traffic management, transportation operations, asset management and research by external organizations. In 2023, the team processed requests for new traffic data at 2031 locations.



Your city, your ideas!


We hope you learned something new about our City’s Traffic Services! Do you have creative ideas on how we can help shape the City’s traffic system work in the future, and find potential cost savings while doing it? Visit engage.ottawa.ca/ConnectedCity today.


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