John Tory at the DMZ on April 7.

Photo: Jake Scott

John Tory speaks at Ryerson on traffic technologies

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By Laura Woodward

Traffic congestion is on its way to be controlled, Toronto Mayor John Tory said at Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) on Tuesday.

Tory said that Toronto has fallen behind when tracking traffic congestion and that there isn’t any real digital data.

“People quite properly asked me for data, ‘How can you show that the traffic is in fact is moving better?’ I had tones of anecdotal evidence that the traffic is moving better but no real data,” Tory announced. “…Really what it meant was we didn’t have any proper data.”

Tory plans to change the city’s lack of big data by working with technological companies like Physicalytics.

Physicalytics, a startup built at the DMZ, works with sensors around the city to track traffic congestion. It tracks traffic and inputs information into a database that can provide the city with information to optimize traffic flow.

“Right now the city is conducting surveys of different areas, they would have to actually hire someone to physically count what the traffic flow is like, but we have sensors that automates that process 24/7,” said co-founder of Physicalytics and third-year computer science student Sam Seo.

“The main thing that we’re doing is that we’re identifying troublesome spots,” Seo said.

“So maybe we have a sensor placed at Yonge and Bloor. And we’re monitoring the traffic there. So we can notice that from Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only at 4pm, it’s really congested and people are waiting a long time. Now there’s an insight that the city has now that they didn’t have before.”

Brampton and Markham are already using this technology to optimize traffic flow.

Tory said that the cost will be “moderately modest,” with a sensor costing $200.

“I can’t give accurate numbers right now. But I mean it is a really cheap solution. What I can tell you right now is that it’s cheaper than hiring a guy to stand there and click how many people are walking by,” Seo said.

Tory said Toronto has fallen behind in traffic technology in the 21st century, addressing the issue that the city was at the bottom of the list to pay for TTC with debit cards.

A hackathon at City Hall will take place in September to better Toronto’s strategy to beat traffic congestion, which Physicalytics will be a part of.

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