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A map of every traffic signal in Toronto

Posted by Chris Bateman / March 5, 2014

toronto traffic signals mapThis beautiful image of Toronto might look like an album cover for an 80s synthpop band, but it's actually a visual representation of every traffic light-controlled intersection in the city. A pinpoint of light for every set of lights.

The image (full-size version here) was created using information from the city's open data portal by William Davis, a Reddit user. Late last year Davis used city data to track infilling along the downtown waterfront.

The first traffic signals in Toronto were installed at Yonge and Bloor in 1924. There are now some 2,300 individual traffic signals, some timed, some controlled by a sensor embedded in the road, across the city. As the map illustrates, downtown is the most signal-dense part of the road network.

What's really amazing is that Toronto, zoomed out and reduced to a collection of dots, is still easily recognizable. The negative space created by the Don and Rouge river valleys is also visible, if you look carefully, so are winding Weston Road and Dundas Street.

See what else you can spot.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.



W. K. Lis / March 5, 2014 at 11:10 am
Out of date soon, say three months. New traffic lights being added all the time.
Signs / March 5, 2014 at 11:30 am
There are less than I thought there would be.
Red Menace / March 5, 2014 at 12:49 pm
Most of them are red too. I've never been anywhere in the world that has such badly timed traffic lights. You want to know how to ease congestion? Try synchronizing the lights better so that people can actually drive a few blocks without hitting a red light at every intersection.
W. K. Lis replying to a comment from Red Menace / March 5, 2014 at 01:39 pm
Believe it or not, Toronto was one of the first cities in the world with computer synchronized traffic, starting in the late 1950's early 1960's. The trouble is that with more and more traffic lights being added, updates to hardware and software is required. That costs money. Budget cuts only result it updates not being made.
Godfrey Mallion / March 5, 2014 at 01:56 pm
The first Toronto traffic lights were installed at Yonge and Bloor. They were activated on August 8, 1925. (City Archives)
mike in parkdale / March 5, 2014 at 03:29 pm

I wonder which one Rob Ford drove through when get got caught in the "cash grab red light camera"?
TJ / March 5, 2014 at 04:07 pm
So much congestion, time, money, and GHGs can be saved simply by synchronized traffic on major routes. The traffic lights should be controlled and connected to the "system" except most of them use old hardware and software so individual lights need to be serviced/synchronized one at a time.
Jen / March 5, 2014 at 04:40 pm
This is very cool. It's pretty easy to figure out which street is which; especially Eglinton. (All major north-south roads begin to run diagonally at Eglinton; this was done to make them run parallel to Yonge Street.) I even found my neighbourhood!
Stephen van Egmond / March 9, 2014 at 03:52 pm
Flashing reds and yellows at night. Please..
Stephen van Egmond / March 9, 2014 at 03:53 pm
Flashing reds and yellows at night. Please.
Dewan Karim / June 2, 2014 at 06:19 pm
Traffic signals are responsible 40% of total pollution, 60% of congestion, 25% of fatality and injury (FHWA 2001). Nearly 3000 people dies at traffic signal in USA and Canada combined (Transport Canada 2008, NHTSA 2013). Roughly 60% of traffic signals are not warranted but installed to support development and "better traffic flow" (Todd Kenneth 2003). If you want to reduce delay for all modes, remove underutilized and poorly designed traffic signals. Using 60%, number of bad traffic signals are ~1800. Install roundabouts which are 50% more efficient and 3 times safer (FHWA 2009, Persaud 2011). These federally approved reports and conclusions, not mine.
Anton / June 6, 2014 at 03:12 pm
The lights are synchronized. It's the volume of cars with people slowing to turn off streets that throws it off. At 3 or 4 am with no one around you can drive across the city with green lights the entire way.
Lexicat replying to a comment from W. K. Lis / June 20, 2014 at 11:00 am
As a small-town Indiana kid visiting Chicago in the late 1940s, I was amazed to see the cleverly synchronized traffic signals on the big north-south thoroughfares such as State Street, Michigan Avenue and Lakeshore Drive, and the main east-west streets such as Congress, Division, Roosevelt Road etc.
In those days, it wasn't computers controlling Chicago's signals. It was just a complex, clock-linked mechanical switching system diligently monitored and maintained by humans.
John Holman / August 22, 2014 at 06:37 am
I have never been in such a traffic light crazy city! Huge promoters of congestion. Tear 'em all out, I say, and put in roundabouts.

Take a look at the way Paris manages its traffic without all the lights.
Don M / November 20, 2015 at 07:03 pm
Yes, in many cases roundabouts are a better solution. Unfortunately the Toronto traffic "planners" have their heads firmly stuck in the sand. They find it easier for themselves to implement the inferiour traffic light solution (that they understand and are familiar with), rather than use the greatly superior solution of the roundabout.

The end result is that we all waste a lot of time sitting at red lights, for little good reason.
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