Monitoring Canada’s Most Traveled Roads

Futuristic looking command and control center scans highways.
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Futuristic looking command and control center scans highways.

Just east of Toronto (Canada’s largest city, population 3 million) is the bedroom community of Whitby, Ontario.

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The Durham Region’s Traffic Management Centre’s command and control. Photo courtesy of the DRTMC by James Careless

While many of Whitby’s residents find rest there, the town is home to the Durham Region’s Traffic Management Centre (DRTMC), an organization that never sleeps because the DRTMC is responsible for monitoring over 500 traffic control signals, the 401 and 407 highways, as well as the local arterial roadway system. Collectively, those are the busiest, most traveled roads in Canada, especially at rush hour.

The sleek, state-of-the-art command and control center that keeps watch on Durham (Ontario) Region’s roads is nicknamed “the bridge of the Enterprise” because of its high-tech equipment and futuristic look.

At the heart of the DRTOC is a Christie TotalVIEW VideoWall system. Comprised of a 2x6 array of 70” Christie CS70-D100U Display Wall Cubes driven by a Christie FRC5100 Display Wall Processor, which delivers a comprehensive view of problems and delays as they emerge. Better yet, it also allows DRTMC staff to see the results of their responses in real-time. That is an improvement, says Bob Szwarz, DRTMC traffic engineering and operations manager. “Before we had this technology, we literally had to go outside to see if our responses were working or not,” he said.


The DRTMC video display wall uses a mix of computer-generated maps, software applications graphics, and video provided by 50 Axis 233 remotely controlled pan-tilt-zoom digital cameras. Placed at strategic locations within the Durham Region, the video signals are linked back “via regional fibre or leased DSL connections,” says Dave Dankmeyer, the DRTMC’s ITS Project Manager. “The video terminations are fed into a video server running the Genetec Video Management System,” he adds. “This system allows the video to be directed through a LAN or WAN to a variety of locations such as workstations, servers and other agencies if desired.”

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Where the Durham Region’s Traffic Management Centre calls home. Photo courtesy of the DRTMC For the Christie video wall itself, the video is sent into the Christie FRC5100, and then to the display cubes. These are DLP-based SXGA (1280 x 1024) resolution displays. Collectively, they provide a 7680 x 2048 resolution video wall. Meanwhile, the FRC5100 is capable of either using the entire video wall for a single image, or dividing up the landscape into multiple, layered windows. To supplement the video wall, two vertical banks of 22” LCD monitors (six each) have been placed on either side of the main display along with 10 additional 32” LCD displays surrounding the room at ceiling height.

All of this is viewed from a curved and uniquely designed control room that seats a number of DRTMC personnel. They can also access what’s being seen on their personal computer monitors, or change the main display with a few moves of their mouses.

Behind the display wall is the “equipment room” which was designed to allow for easy maintenance of the video wall, so staff can take care of the equipment without disrupting the main DRTMC room, says Chris Randles, Applied Electronics’ Durham Regional account manager. Applied Electronics is the integrator that supplied and installed the DRTMC in partnership with Durham Region from “day one.” By placing the equipment room behind the display wall, it established a central location to store our testing and maintenance equipment, as well as a work area, he said.

The room’s look has resulted in staffers commenting on how the DRTMC resembles the bridge of the starship Enterprise; specifically the sleek, open area of the Enterprise-D in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”


That suite of equipment allows, the DRTMC to manage over 500 traffic control signals and electronic signs. But that is not all, the command and control function of the DRTMC puts it in a position to it act as the “eyes” for local police, fire and EMS. It also works closely with the local transit authority, and serves as a key element of Durham’s Emergency Management Office.

Which is as well because if a major disaster occurs in Durham Region, the DRTMC becomes the critical base for traffic related issues including signal and sign maintenance and repair; and police operations.

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Thanks to the DRTOC’s video eyes, Durham Region’s traffic managers are able to keep the roads rolling east of Toronto, which is no easy feat because as the Toronto area attracts more residents and new businesses, traffic levels also increase.

“We find ourselves relying on video more than ever,” Szwarz said. “Our cameras and our video wall allow us to see what’s happening in real-time, make decisions to deal with it fast, and then see if our decisions need changing or not,” he said. The system also allows officials to monitor how our pre-set traffic signal programs are working and the server has a number of programs ready to direct lights and signs to meet a whole range of traffic scenarios. “Video ensures that we are getting the results we need, without waiting,” he said.