University of Calgary

New lab explores solutions to Alberta’s traffic woes

UToday HomeMay 22, 2013

Guests at the laboratory’s grand opening event.Guests at the laboratory’s grand opening event. Left to right: John Rule (AMA), Minister of Transportation Ric McIver, Minaz Lalani (AMA), Tania Willumsen (AMA), Schulich School of Engineering Dean Guy Gendron, Ellen Chidley (AMA), John Kong (AMA Chair), Don Ross (AMA), Tim Bancroft (AMA). Photo by Don MolyneauxA data warehouse, live traffic video and information from sensors along Deerfoot Trail will help researchers find ways to increase road safety and ease congestion, in a new traffic laboratory based at the Schulich School of Engineering.

Experts will apply technology such as sensor data integration, real-time tracking and data analysis to develop new solutions for traffic issues in Alberta. This research could lead to ramp meters and variable speed limits to control the rate and speed at which vehicles enter busy expressways, new warnings on roadways as well as systems that alert drivers about crashes and suggest alternate routes.

Such strategies, when deployed simultaneously, are known as Active Traffic and Demand Management (ATDM). Studies in Europe and in some American cities have shown that ATDM improves traffic flow while reducing the frequency and severity of collisions.

More roads are not always the answer to traffic congestion because they simply attract more single occupant vehicles, says Lina Kattan, director of the laboratory. The key sometimes is to better manage the way motorists use existing infrastructure.

“Injuries and deaths from collisions take a personal toll, increase health care costs and reduce our economic productivity. Air quality also suffers when vehicles idle during periods of traffic congestion,” explains Kattan, associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and Urban Alliance Professor in Transportation Systems Optimization. Other members of the research team include Chan Wirasinghe  in civil engineering and Behrouz Far in electrical and computer engineering.

The new lab will enable the development and testing of solutions specifically for Alberta. The facility includes a live data feed and data warehouse to monitor traffic in real time. Researchers will also look at ways to make public transportation more attractive, such as improving bus travel times with adaptive signal priority at intersections and using GPS to estimate real-time bus arrivals at bus stops to provide updates for commuters.

The Alberta Motor Association ATDM Laboratory was established through the support of a number of partners: the Department of Civil Engineering, the Government of Canada through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Alberta Motor Association, Alberta Transportation, Econolite Canada, the City of Calgary, ENCOM Wireless, Dell and FLIR 360 Surveillance. 

“The University of Calgary’s research into new strategies to increase road safety will benefit the health and well-being of all Canadians,” said Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). “Our government’s investment, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, provides researchers with the infrastructure they need to make the important and valuable discoveries that improve lives here in Canada and around the world.”

“We have a car culture in Alberta and the key is innovation,” says Don Szarko, director of advocacy and community services with the AMA. “We’re hoping to create a transportation environment beyond the car that includes all aspects of the roadway and mobility, underscored by safety.”

“This facility will help improve the safety and efficiency of our transportation network,” said Alberta Minister of Transportation Ric McIver at the grand opening event May 3. “I have no doubt that the research going on here will in a very direct way save Albertans lives.”


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