New cameras installed across Oakville to improve traffic system

July 26, 2012 - All News

Small cameras mounted atop traffic signals at various intersections scattered across Oakville have raised questions among residents.
But according to Simon Tam, Manager of Traffic Operations at the Town of Oakville, these little cameras are not a form of big brother, but innovation in traffic management.
“In Oakville traffic does not run by fixed time,” said Tam. “We use detection on the major and minor streets to adjust the green light at an intersection. One is buried in pavement: a loop detector.”
The loop detector is a coil of copper wire buried in the pavement; when vehicles pass over it, magnetic interference occurs and the loop sends a signal to the automated controllers. This technology has worked well over time, said Tam, though he admitted that if the pavement is frozen and the detector faults, there is little option available for repair.
“Recent technology has gone in a different direction for detection – video detection cameras,” he said. “We take a picture of the road, then define a detection area on the screen. Within that area, if pixels change in colour there’s a detection of something on the road surface. That sends a signal – the same as a loop detector does – to a traffic controller.”
The immediate concern of many residents has been over whether or not these video detection cameras store the images they capture.
“It’s a policy to not store any pictures from traffic control devices,” explained Tam. “If you asked me what the picture was two seconds ago, I couldn’t say because the information is not stored in any media format we can extract.”
Of 220 signalized intersections in Oakville, 24 are equipped with one or more video detection cameras Tam said.
The upfront cost of installing a video detection camera may be higher than an underground loop detector, but its ongoing maintenance costs can be much more economical, Tam suggested.
“Which is the better solution cost wise? All I can say is it depends on the situation,” he said. “The visual detection is costly in initial installation because we need to put a processor in the controller. To install the loop detectors we usually cut a slab in the pavement and install wires in the slot and seal it. The material is very cheap. Most of the time a loop can last 5 to 10 years easily.
“But if you have bad pavement, it won’t last that long and we may have to go back and redo the loop. If you do this several times the maintenance costs get very high. With a visual detector the parts will fail since it’s on all the time. But it can be replaced very easily – it can be restored within one day.”
To find out more about traffic operations in the Town of Oakville visit
— Metroland News Service