Even with the most careful planning, construction zones pretty much always result in some delays and congestion for commuters, and we know that our vivaNext rapidway projects are no exception. We are committed to doing whatever can be done to minimize the impact of construction and keep people informed.
One way of doing that is to let drivers know if there’s congestion along their route, and if so, how much of a delay they can expect. By giving real-time information, drivers can decide if they should take an alternate route.
That’s why we install variable message signs, or VMS, on the approaches to our construction zones, including along Yonge Street and on Highway 7 near the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.
Using Bluetooth Traffic Monitoring [BTM] software, these signs show actual travel times, in real time, between specific locations. Roadside sensors collect Bluetooth data from passing cars, and the information is uploaded to a central location. The software then analyzes the data to determine current travel times, which is reflected on the signs. In addition to travel time, project managers can update other information on the signs, such as upcoming work or lane closures.
BTM is able to detect Bluetooth signals emitted from cell phones, tablets and other Bluetooth or Wi-Fi devices on-board, and convert this into accurate information, simply and inexpensively. Not all vehicles carry devices with Bluetooth turned on, but there is a high enough proportion of devices to provide effective information.
Cars emitting Bluetooth signals are randomly chosen as they pass into the defined area. Multiple sensors placed along the route detect the unique identifier of each Bluetooth signal and track it as it travels through the area. In this way, the system measures in real time how quickly cars are moving, and reports actual travel times. The software has built-in algorithms to make sure it only tracks vehicles while ignoring Bluetooth signals emitted from pedestrians or other stray sources. The information is constantly uploaded to the VMS, telling drivers exactly what’s happening on the route ahead.
The technology to use Bluetooth data to analyze travel times has been around for some time. But vivaNext was actually the first project in North America and possibly the world, to collect and convert this information for display on variable message signs.
What’s in a sign? We know that the signs on their own won’t reduce the disruptions caused by construction. But by providing drivers with accurate travel time information, they’ll know what to expect for their commute.