Ontario flashing green
- Hey, gang! I don't know how many of you heard this
over the weekend, so I'm entering it in from the
Toronto Star. While I'm disappointed in the
disappearance of an Ontario institution, the only
reason I'm surprised is that it took so long!
Look out, the traffic lights are changing
Green arrow replaces flashing green as city switches
to North American standard
By Bruce DeMara
(Toronto Star, Saturday, September 8, 2001, p. A3)
In Toronto, the green arrow has the green light while
the flashing green is starting to yield.
Traffic signals across Toronto are making the switch
-- ever so slowly -- from the "flashing green ball" to
the green arrow to avoid confusion and to join the
other cities and towns across the continent.
"Basically, the green arrow is the North American
standard," said Bruce Zvaniga, the city's manager of
urban traffic control systems. "Really, it is only
Toronto and some southern Ontario cities (that) are
the only ones that are using the flashing green ball."
Toronto has had the flashing green signals -- which
indicate drivers can turn left unimpeded by oncoming
traffic -- in place for decades.
But two years ago the provincial transportation
ministry and Ontario municipalities rewrote their
"At that time, it was decided that the flashing green
would be phased out. It would take a number of years
because of the cost of replacing them," Zvaniga said.
David Kauffman, the city's director of transportation,
said there's also a safety issue involved in making
the switchover to green arrows, especially for
"It's for safety reasons. For a lot of visitors to
our city, when they see the flashing green, they don't
know what it means," he said.
Zvaniga said the flashing green is used in other
localities but doesn't mean the same thing as here,
causing some confusion.
In Vancouver, for example, the flashing green is
actually a signal to pedestrians that side streets
near the intersection are controlled by the traffic
light, he said.
Toronto has 550 intersections that still use the
flashing green and 120 that have made the switch to
The signals are being replaced at a rate of 15 to 20 a
year because it costs $5,000 to $10,000 an
intersection. [Ed. note: Hmmmm... guess they'll be
around longer than the article suggests. It'll be
over 25-30 years at that rate!]
"We're trying to concentrate on doing the boundary
roads first because Peel and York Regions have many
more green arrows than we do," Zvaniga said.
Kaufman said the department was initially reluctant to
change signals because the flashing green can be used
at intersections to indicate vehicles may turn left or
go straight ahead while the green arrows obviously
have "less flexibility."
[Ed. note: Why?? This statement was the last one of
the article, and makes no sense. A 4-lens signal head
works exactly the same way as a 3-lens signal with
flashing green. Indeed, 4-lens signals allow for
*more* flexibility: flashing green allows for advance
left turns in one direction only, whereas with arrows
you can have both directions turning left at once.]
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- On Sun, 9 Sep 2001, Brent Hooton wrote:
> In Vancouver, for example, the flashing green isYes, I've heard enough horror stories about eager Ontarians doing a left
> actually a signal to pedestrians that side streets
> near the intersection are controlled by the traffic
> light, he said.
turn in B.C. upon seeing that flashing green, only to wonder why an
oncoming car proceeded to broadside them.
Although, I must admit that as a Toronto pedestrian, I sort of like the
flashing green signals instead of the green arrow. Due to the fact that so
many pedestrian signals seem to be broken or malfunctioning, many
pedestrians take a quick look at the green traffic lights instead. When
the green light flashes, it catches your attention and warns you "Uh-oh,
don't cross here!" On the other hand, the green light/green arrow combo is
less eye-catching, and you have to look at it directly to figure out
what's going on. I'm far more used to seeing the flashing green lights
(the article makes it almost sound as if they only use them in Toronto,
although I know they use them in many other Ontario cities as well). As a
driver, I understand them instantly, but as a pedestrian, I have to think
about them for a second. :-)