Problem traffic light gets technological makeover

‘Demons will be banished’ from light at Victoria Avenue and 2nd Street South with new cameras

Cameras have been installed on what the city calls a “possessed” traffic light on Victoria Avenue and 2nd Street South.

Joe McGowan, director of public works, said the traffic light will be exorcised of its demons when the cameras begin to control the intersection on Friday, May 16.

“We don’t know what’s going on. What we suspect has happened is the loops – the sensors underneath the asphalt – we believe that some of them have problems,” said McGowan.

Rather than ripping up the pavement in the intersection to replace the sensors, the City of Cranbrook has chosen to install new technology that will cost about 25 per cent what it would cost to repave.

“It appears that this new camera recognition system is superior in reliability to what we have now. So rather than replace what we have now with the same thing, we are going to the next level of technology,” said McGowan.

Observant residents will have already noticed the cameras that have been installed about the traffic lights at that intersection. However, the wiring to connect the cameras to the computer that will control them has yet to be installed. That work is expected to be complete by May 16.

There needs to be a physical connection between the cameras and the computer, which will be located in a cabinet near the intersection.

That computer will be installed with state-of-the-art software that analyzes the camera footage and instantly recognizes when a vehicle is waiting at the intersection, McGowan explained.

“The software we are using, that is attached to the camera, says, hey, this is a truck, this is a car, this is a bike, this is a people. If a people, don’t worry about it. If it’s a pedal bike, don’t worry about it. If it’s a motorbike, flip the light,” he said.

The cameras are trained so that they are narrow enough to recognize which lane a vehicle is waiting in.

“So a truck parking in an opposite lane wouldn’t trigger it,” said McGowan. “The cameras are focused on certain areas and they literally record cars coming and going.”

It is the first intersection in Cranbrook to use the technology. However, each intersection is a standalone entity.

“We do not have the luxury of having all of the intersections linked as occurs in some places because there has to be a physical connection between the intersections. So if 2nd Street South and Victoria were to be tied together with 2nd Street North and Victoria, there would have to be a fibre optic cable between those two, or a radio set-up, which would probably be just as expensive,” said McGowan.

The cameras are not being used to catch drivers who run the red light or speed through the intersection, he added.

“I’m just trying to get this thing so it doesn’t behave like a teenager. We can’t find the problems, but we know they are there because they keep showing up. The only thing we can think of is broken coils underneath the pavement. So let’s go to the newer technology.”