City eyes automated green lights for emergency vehicles

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Allowing fire trucks and ambulances to trigger green traffic lights while rushing to answer emergency calls could reduce some Winnipeg response times by about 20 per cent, a new study finds.

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Allowing fire trucks and ambulances to trigger green traffic lights while rushing to answer emergency calls could reduce some Winnipeg response times by about 20 per cent, a new study finds.

A study by MORR Transportation Consulting Ltd. finds an emergency vehicle pre-emption system would also “likely prevent” one intersection collision per month involving emergency vehicles, improve health outcomes and reduce insurance claims.

The City of Winnipeg isn’t yet sure how it would pay for such a system and will order another study to explore that in more detail.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Allowing fire trucks and ambulances to trigger green traffic lights while rushing to answer emergency calls could reduce some Winnipeg response times by about 20 per cent, a new study finds.

Coun. John Orlikow, head of the community services committee, said the change looks promising but council must get more details about the cost to move forward.

“The report says… it’s worthy, there (are) a lot of benefits from it. But council, at the end of the day, will have to figure out, whatever the price tag is, how we’re going to pay for it,” said Orlikow.

Emergency vehicle pre-emption is also expected to support the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service’s long-term strategic plan, which calls to eventually reduce the number of local fire paramedic stations to 24 from 30.

“By providing improved response times, (emergency vehicle pre-emption) can effectively extend the coverage area of existing WFPS stations, allowing those existing resources to provide service over a larger area,” a city report notes.

MORR estimates such a system would cut the response time by 54 seconds for the first emergency vehicle to arrive at the most serious calls. The current average response time in those cases is four minutes, 17 seconds.

Orlikow said he’s hopeful the provincial government would help pay for an emergency vehicle pre-emption system, since health care falls under its jurisdiction.

“I think it’s part of the overall partnership. Every second someone is delayed getting to the hospital with a heart attack is catastrophic,” he said.

While such a system could speed up trips for emergency vehicles and cut down some general traffic delays linked to their calls, in many cases, general traffic could be delayed, MORR warns.

“The changes in signal timing inherent in (emergency vehicle pre-emption) systems can disrupt carefully planned traffic signal timing plans, and especially co-ordination between intersections, where impacts at one intersection can cascade through other intersections and linger beyond the pre-emption period,” the study notes.

The consultant said how the city implements such a system will play a key role in determining its price. The study estimates the average annual cost could range from $80,000 to $930,000, depending on the version chosen and how centralized it is.

joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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