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Traffic Management

Traffic signals and roadway design elements are some of the ways we keep traffic moving efficiently and improves safety for pedestrians and cyclists

Traffic signals

Traffic signals are located at intersections, they help manage the flow of traffic, pedestrians and cyclists. We manage the planning and operation of the city’s traffic signals and Utilities Kingston manages the installation and maintenance of them.

Malfunctioning or broken traffic signals are an emergency, if you see one report it immediately to Utilities Kingston 24/7 through their emergency line at 613-546-1181.

Locations are chosen based on Ministry Transportation Ontario (MTO) guidelines that consider traffic volumes, delays, pedestrians and collision history. The cost to install a new traffic signal can range from $200,000 to $600,000.

There are two types of cameras found on poles and neither are surveillance cameras. These are vehicle-detection cameras and traffic-counting cameras.

Vehicle detection cameras are used at intersections to improve efficiency. They allow traffic signals adjust the duration of a green light based on changes in the volume of traffic. These cameras do not record anything and are used to determine when light times need adjusting.

Traffic counting cameras are used for short terms periods to count vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. This data is used for planning purposes to understand how travel volumes at intersections. City staff cannot view the recordings.  

Although helpful, left-turn arrows can slow down the rest of traffic. We use traffic data to determine timing that strikes a balance between allowing vehicles to make a left hand turn and ensuring the general flow of traffic remains smooth.

Green lights are timed to coordinate with all the other signals at an intersection. By increasing the length of a green light, it increases the length of red lights. To keep things moving smoothly the City tries to strike a balance in light timing.

Yes, some intersections in the city uses either vehicle detection cameras or something called a vehicle detection loop, which uses magnets to sense the metal in a vehicle, to adjust light timing based on the number of vehicles.

We do not operate traffic signals in flash mode, which is when signals flash amber on the main street and red on the minor street, during quieter hours of the day three reasons:

  1. In this mode there is no pedestrian protection since the pedestrian lights no longer function. 
  2. If all the signals in a corridor are flashing amber, some drivers may interpret this as an opportunity to drive straight through without stopping, this could create hazards.
  3. Signals in flash mode can lead to confusion about who has the right of way, this can increase collisions.

Traffic signals along most major corridors in the city are coordinated and timed to work with nearby intersections to facilitate smooth travel through the corridor. Turning onto these roads is done in smaller intervals to reduce the impacts to traffic flow. This means it might take longer to turn onto a bigger road but once you are on travel will be more continuous.

The walk light indicates when it is safe for pedestrians to begin crossing.  The duration of the walk light may be as short as seven to ten seconds but can often be greater when the duration of the green light for vehicles is relatively long.

The walk light display is followed by a red flashing hand known as the "clearance phase". The duration of the clearance phase is dependent on the width of the road being crossed. If a pedestrian steps off the curb and begins crossing just as the red hand starts flashing, there should be adequate time for the pedestrian to finish crossing. If the flashing red hand appears when you are only part way across the street, you should continue crossing as there is still adequate time to clear the intersection. If a pedestrian starts crossing after the red hand starts flashing, there may not be adequate time to cross safely.

Some intersections have push buttons for pedestrians where the green light time for vehicles may be less than the time needed to cross the street as a pedestrian. At these intersections if you are a pedestrian, it is important to press this button to add extra time to the signal and allow more time to safely cross.

Learn more about pedestrian signals, accessible pedestrian signals and crosswalks.

The pedestrian countdown devices are timed to allow pedestrians enough time to cross the street. In the downtown area, the traffic signals operate with "fixed timings" meaning that the length of the green lights stay the same throughout the day and do not respond to changes in the traffic flow. At these downtown signals, the "zero" on the pedestrian countdown is always displayed at the same time as the amber for vehicles. Outside of the downtown area, all of the traffic signals are programmed to respond to changes in the traffic flow. For this reason, the length of green lights is variable so the "zero" on the pedestrian countdown does not always correspond to the amber for vehicles.

Where pedestrian countdown devices are in operation, motorists should be aware that the when the countdown reaches "0", it may or may not correspond to the beginning of the amber light for vehicles. Drivers need to focus on the traffic signal intended for vehicles as opposed to the signals for pedestrians.


Roundabouts are circle-shaped intersections where two or more roads meet. Instead of stopping at red lights, traffic moves to the right, or counterclockwise, around a centre island. With fewer contact points and slower vehicle speeds, roundabouts can decrease the risk of serious collisions.

Learn more about Province of Ontario’s rules for driving in roundabouts.

How to use Kingston’s roundabouts 

Roundabouts are being used more frequently in Kingston. Depending on if you are using them as a driver, cyclist or pedestrian there are different things you need to know. 

The pedestrian crossings that are used in a roundabout are called pedestrian crossovers. They look like typical crosswalks and in Ontario, drivers must yield to pedestrians waiting to cross and wait until they have finished crossing before driving through a crossover.

Learn more about the types of pedestrian infrastructure in Kingston. 

Entering the roundabout  

  • Slow down when approaching the roundabout
  • Stop for any pedestrians crossing or looking to cross at a pedestrian crossover
  • Yield to any traffic already in the roundabout
  • Enter the roundabout only when there is a safe gap in traffic

In the roundabout  

  • Travel in a counterclockwise direction
  • Drive slowly and be alert of your surroundings
  • Remember that entering traffic must yield to you

Exiting the roundabout  

  • Stop for any pedestrians crossing or looking to cross at a crossover
  • Signal right as you exit the roundabout

You can either ride through a roundabout like vehicles do or dismount and cross the roundabout as a pedestrian. If riding through the roundabout:

  • Before entering the roundabout, carefully move into the center of the travel lane
  • Stay in the middle of the traffic lane until you are ready to exit
  • Use hand signals to signal right when exiting the roundabout

Cross roundabouts in two stages by using the curbed area in the middle of the roadway as a rest point. Never use the large centre island as a means of crossing instead cross around it. 

Roundabouts with crossovers and crosswalk markings:

  • Go to the edge of the curb and let drivers know you want to cross
  • Once vehicles have completely stopped you can cross

Roundabouts without crossovers and crosswalk markings:

  • Wait for a safe gap in traffic and then cross

The City of Kingston acknowledges that we are on the traditional homeland of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and the Huron-Wendat, and thanks these nations for their care and stewardship over this shared land.

Today, the City is committed to working with Indigenous peoples and all residents to pursue a united path of reconciliation.

Learn more about the City's reconciliation initiatives.

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