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The following are answers of some frequently asked questions related to traffic issues:

  • Signals
  • Signs
  • School Parking
  • General
  1. What can be done to improve the safety and efficiency in front of schools when parents are picking up and dropping off their children? (Community Knowledge Campus Parking Map included) 
  2. What is the difference between a school area and a school zone?
  3. How does the City of Grande Prairie decide which is appropriate, a school zone or a school area?
  4. How can I have a yield sign on my local/residential street?
  5. How are the amber lights at signalized intersections timed?
  6. How can I get a traffic signal installed at a particular intersection?
  7. How do traffic sensors work?
  8. What is “Traffic Calming”?
  9. If traffic signals are synchronized, why do I have to stop?
  10. How are speed limits set in the City?
  11. Can the City install speed bumps on my street?
  12. What happens to the traffic signals when a fire truck goes through a signalized intersection?  
  13. Why don't the lights flash amber and red late at night when less traffic is on the road? 
  14. What is the difference between "Road Closed" signs and "Road Closed to Thru Traffic" or "Road Closed Local Traffic Only" signs? 
  15. At some pedestrian signals, I press the button and get a walk light very quickly. At other pedestrian signals, I press the button and have to wait for the walk light. Why?  
  16. Where are loops located? 
  17. Why do some left-turn arrows allow cars to turn only when the green arrow is displayed, and not during the through phase? 
  18. What is new in traffic signals & LED Technology?
  19. How can I get a four-way stop sign installed at a particular intersection? 
  20. What is the difference between the white and yellow speed signs? 
  21. How do I report damaged or missing traffic control and parking control signs? 
  22. How can I get a crosswalk at a particular intersection?
  23. Are Grande Prairie’s traffic signals coordinated? 
  24. Can I get “CHILDREN AT PLAY” signs installed on my street?

Q: What can be done to improve the safety and efficiency in front of schools when parents are picking up and dropping off their children?

Parking in front of most schools can be chaotic during school admission and dismissal. Engineering Services staff work with staff from the schools, Enforcement Services and concerned parents to improve this situation through education, enforcement or adjustment to the parking regulations. There are also a number of innovative programs available to assist with traffic management in the vicinity of schools. Engineering Services staff continues to investigate the concerns of residents and/or school staff to determine what is the best way to improve the situation at schools.

Currently, Engineering Services has partnered with Enforcement Services to create a new reader friendly parking map. This map is for the Community Knowledge Campus and impacts Charles Spencer High School, St. Joseph Catholic High School, The Eastlink Centre and The Coca-Cola Centre.  This newly designed map clearly displays the parking  and drop off locations in the area and can be found here.

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Q: What is the difference between a school area and a school zone?    

A school area is designated by a school advisory sign, letting you know there is a school ahead. There is no regulation to reduce travel speed however you must reduce speed depending on the driving conditions as required by law.

A school zone is also designated by a school advisory sign, however, unlike a school area, a school zone has an attached speed limit regulation sign. You must reduce speed to 30 km/hr until you see a sign indicating otherwise.

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Q: How does the City of Grande Prairie decide which is appropriate, a school zone or school area?

The decision is based on Provincial Guidelines published by the Government of Alberta. For more information or to obtain a copy of this document please contact the City's Transportation Engineering Department.
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Q: How can I have a yield sign on my local/residential street ?

The City often receives inquiries about installing a YIELD sign at intersections as a way to reduce speeding and accidents. YIELD signs; however, are usually installed to regulate traffic flow and improve safety. Their main purpose is to provide right-of-way control at intersections and to reduce certain types of accidents.

The City of Grande Prairie uses the following method for installing YIELD signs on local/residential streets.

T- Intersections:

The right-of-way does not usually need to be assigned at a tee intersection of two residential or local streets. It should be obvious that the straight road has the right of way. A yield sign may be installed if there is not a house or trees or something to break up the sight line so a motorist imagines the road continues past the intersection. If the safe approach speed is greater than 15km/h or the traffic volume is higher the yield sign can be upgraded to a stop sign.

4-way Intersections:

Typically, a 4-way intersection of two residential or local streets can be controlled by yield signs on both approaches to one of the streets. If there is a sight distance problem on one of the controlled approaches and the safe approach speed is greater than 15 km/h, as well as high traffic volume, the yield signs on both approaches can be changed to stop signs after a stop warrant analysis. The street with more traffic should have the right-of-way.
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Q: How are the amber lights at signalized intersections timed?

Amber lights' times in the City of Grande Prairie are designed depending on the speed of the road, deceleration rates of vehicles and the reaction time of the driver. The length of yellow lights will vary from 3 to 6 seconds as speed limit increases from relatively low to relatively high. However, it is common, in the City of Grande Prairie, that 3.5 to 5 seconds is used where speed ranges from 50 – 70 km/hr.
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Q: How can I get a traffic signal installed at a particular intersection?

To install a traffic signal, the intersection must first meet certain minimum criteria specified by the Canadian Traffic Signal Procedure. First, an engineering study of the intersection must be performed. The Traffic Engineer then looks at things such as traffic volumes, pedestrian volumes, posted speed, collision history, road alignment (visibility), etc. The engineer's investigation may provide alternate solutions if the study does not warrant a traffic signal, i.e. a stop sign. These save the taxpayer unnecessary expenses and can usually be acted upon more quickly. If the intersection does warrant a traffic signal, it will be installed as soon as funding permits. 
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 Q: How do traffic sensors work?

Grande Prairie and many other cities in Canada use inductance loops to detect vehicles. Saw-cuts are made in the pavement, typically in a rectangular or diamond shape. Special electric cable is then laid into the saw-cuts in a layered continuous loop; the saw-cuts are then filled with a sealer. A voltage is applied through an amplifier in the traffic signal cabinet to the wires in the pavement. The result is a fairly stable electric field. The loop's field remains stable until a large metal object such as a car disturbs that field. The disturbance is a change in inductance and is sensed by the detector unit. The detector unit then sends a vehicle call input to the signal controller and the lights change accordingly.
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Q: What is “Traffic Calming”?

Traffic calming is a term most commonly associated with physical features placed on a roadway to influence the speed of vehicles. There are many factors to be considered before traffic calming devices are installed.
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Q: If traffic signals are synchronized, why do I have to stop?

Studies have shown that some roadways are approaching capacity and more motorists would be stopped even with the best signal synchronization plan. Synchronization is constrained by external factors that are unaffected by the signal timing design. Synchronization can only try to minimize, but not completely eliminate stopping.
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Q: How are speed limits set in the City?

Motorists usually drive at a speed that they instinctively feel comfortable with based on road conditions. Studies have shown that less accidents occur on roadways where most vehicles are about the same speed. Therefore, engineers normally determine the speed limits based on considerations of factors such as:

  • Prevailing traffic speed
  • Road geometric standards
  • Potential inferences from adjacent accesses
  • Pedestrian activity
  • Distances between traffic signal controlled intersections
  • Roadway alignment, visibility, and stopping sigh distance
  • Adjacent land uses
  • Traffic accident history
  • Overall city transportation plan and road classifications

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Q: Can the City install speed bumps on my street?       

Speeding on residential streets is a common complaint reported by concerned citizens throughout the City. Speed bumps are often requested because they are perceived as a quick and effective solution to speeding. Research has shown, however, that speed bumps are not always an effective or safe traffic control device.

The City of Grande Prairie has done its own effectiveness assessment before considering speed bumps as a possible solution to residential speeding. The study carefully evaluated the impact of speed bumps on traffic speeds and other related elements in neighbourhoods. At the conclusion of the study, it was determined that speed bumps are not a desirable speed control method for our City due to a number of negative factors, specifically emergency response time. For these reasons, the City of Grande Prairie does not use speed bumps on public streets.
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Q: What happens to the traffic signals when a fire truck goes through a signalized intersection? 

City fire trucks are equipped with a device which pre-empts normal operation of the traffic signals. During a pre-emption, a green indication is given to the signal movement, which the emergency vehicle is utilizing.
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The City of Grande Prairie does not use night flash operations as studies indicate the collision rate increases by as much as 300% when this type of operation is used.
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Q: What is the difference between "Road Closed" signs and "Road Closed to Thru Traffic" or "Road Closed Local Traffic Only" signs?    

 If the sign says "Road Closed", only authorized vehicles may be in the work area. The other two signs are used where through traffic must detour around the work area.
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Q: At some pedestrian signals, I press the button and get a walk light very quickly. At other pedestrian signals, I press the button and have to wait for the walk light. Why?

Many pedestrian signals throughout Grande Prairie are coordinated with adjacent traffic signals to reduce vehicle delays. Wait time for pedestrians depends on when the button is pressed in the signal cycle and could range from an instant response to a wait of more than a minute.
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 Q: Where are loops located?

Loops are usually located about one meter back of the stop line. The stop line is a pavement marking indicating where vehicles are to stop when the traffic signal is red. When vehicles do not stop behind the stop bar, it is likely that the traffic signal does not sense the vehicle's presence and therefore does not display green. At some locations where motorists consistently have the tendency to stop beyond the stop bar a "Stop Line" sign is installed to indicate the point where the loop will detect the vehicle. Overhead detectors also exist at some locations.
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Q: Why do some left-turn arrows allow cars to turn only when the green arrow is displayed, and not during the through phase?

This phase, known as protected-prohibited, is designed to separate left-turning traffic from opposing through traffic. These signals are operating for safety reasons where double left-turn lanes exist, or where there are a high number of left-turning accidents. 100 Avenue and 108 Street, and 116 Avenue and 100 Street are a couple of examples of this phase in Grande Prairie.
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Q: What is new in traffic signals & LED Technology?

The City of Grande Prairie uses light emitting diodes (LEDs) for traffic signal lights. The uses of LEDs for traffic signal lamps are an example of Grande Prairie's commitment to innovation and cost saving. The average life of an incandescent lamp is one year as compared to a life expectancy of a LED lamp which is up to ten years.

Benefits of a longer lamp include:

• Less maintenance
• Shorter traffic delays caused by repair of equipment in intersections
• Greatly reduced electricity bills
• Reduced risks for technicians and motorists due to reduction of time spent replacing burned out lamps at intersections

Comparative Wattage Use:

Incandescent      LED  Percent Reduction
91  7.0  92.3% 
91  9.5  89.6% 
136  14.0  89.7% 
136  19.0  86.0% 
136  6.5  95.2% 

LED Technology Average Reduction 90.5%
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 Q: How can I get a four-way stop sign installed at a particular intersection?

To determine whether the installation of a four-way stop is warranted, Transportation staff must first conduct a traffic study at the intersection. This study considers a number of key factors such as collisions, traffic volumes, roadway geometry and neighbouring traffic control devices. If the requirements are met, staff will typically recommend the installation of a four-way stop sign.

A few key points:
• Four-way stop sign controls operate more effectively at intersections with higher traffic volumes, and a balanced split between the traffic on the major street and on the minor street.
• Four-way stop signs are intended to control right-of-way and are not intended as speed control devices.

The City does not typically use stop signs at T-intersections in residential areas. The right-of-way at T-intersections is covered under the Traffic Vehicle Code, which requires that motorists on the T-leg yield to motorists on the through roadway. Stop signs are generally used on the minor leg of a T-intersection only if there is significant traffic volume on the through street.
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Q: What is the difference between the white and yellow speed signs?

Speed limit signs with a black message on a white background are regulatory signs; while speed advisory signs with a black message on a yellow background are warning signs.
Regulatory signs are used to impose legal restrictions applicable to particular locations.
Warning signs are used to call attention to hazardous conditions, actual or potential, which otherwise would not be readily apparent, (i.e. advisory speed signs around a curve). The established advisory speed at a curve is based on the safe and comfortable speed for the driver.
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Q: How do I report damaged or missing traffic control and parking control signs?

To report damaged or missing traffic control and parking control signs (stop signs, yield signs, and Do Not Enter signs, etc.), contact Engineering Services at (780) 538-0417. Business hours are 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday.
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 Q: How can I get a crosswalk at a particular intersection?

To install a crosswalk, the intersection must first meet certain minimum criteria specified by the Pedestrian Crossing Control Manual of Canada. First, an engineering study of the intersection must be performed. The traffic engineer looks at things such as traffic volumes, pedestrian volumes, posted speed, stopping sight distance, accident history, crossing opportunities, road alignment (visibility ), etc. If the intersection warrants a crosswalk, it will be installed as soon as possible.
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Q: Are Grande Prairie’s traffic signals coordinated?

Yes, traffic signals are coordinated (NOT ALL) to minimize stops and delays. Perfect coordination is difficult due to the varying speeds and congestion of traffic. The distance between signals and differing amounts of green time at each intersection also affect coordination. Also, perfect coordination for one direction results in stops and delays for the other direction.
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Q: Can I get “CHILDREN AT PLAY” signs installed on my street?

"Children at Play” signs and similar signs are not recognized by the City of Grande Prairie as an official traffic control device and therefore, are not installed by the City on public streets. “Children at Play” signs send the wrong message to our younger citizens by encouraging them to play within the street. In addition, “Children at Play” signs tend to create a false belief for children by letting them assume they are safer where signs are installed. 
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Sometimes you sit at a red light for way too long. How does the timing on the traffic lights work?
Q: Sometimes you sit at a red light for way too long. How does the timing on the traffic lights work?
A:
There are a number of reasons you may be waiting for a long time at a red light:

1. Detection – In the city of Grande Prairie, most of our intersections have video detectors that indicate when a vehicle is sitting at a red light waiting for service. If the light doesn’t change at all, it may mean that the detector is malfunctioning. If there is a lengthy delay it can mean a faulty detector in the opposite direction is causing that green to be extended, even if there is no traffic.
2. Pre timed intersections- Some intersections in Grande Prairie (Such as the one ways in the downtown core) run on a timed cycle, which means they will always service all directions for a set amount of time, regardless of demand.
3. Major Corridors – Some intersections along major corridors such as Wapiti Road are configured and timed to emphasize the main directions. This can result in longer waits when approaching from the side streets.
4. Signal Pre-emption – We have a system in place for giving green lights to emergency vehicles. While uncommon, when initiated this can cause certain directions to have long waits while the intersection returns to normal.

We are always looking for ways to improve traffic flow within the city. Therefore, if you notice what you feel to be excessive wait times, contact us so we can confirm that all of the detection equipment is working properly and that our timings are servicing the demand in an efficient manner.