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Traffic Signals

Traffic signal in Surrey.

Traffic signals determine whose turn it is to go at an intersection.

We typically put in traffic signals where traffic and pedestrian volumes increase beyond the capability of a 2 or 4-way stop control. But, sometimes a roundabout is better for a location than a traffic signal.

Report a malfunctioning traffic signal to us at 604-591-4338.

Where we install traffic signals

We install traffic signals where they can most improve use traffic flow and have the best chance of reducing collisions and improving safety.

We use national guidelines, part of a warrant system, to determine if a traffic signal's right for a location. We consider several things when we're determining this:

  • collision history: looking how many collisions could have been prevented by a traffic signal.
  • total traffic volume: looking at the total number of vehicles entering the intersection to see how long everyone is being delayed.
  • side street traffic volume: looking at how long vehicles and pedestrians on side streets are delayed.

Where we install left-turn arrows

We use a warrant system to decide if a left-turn arrow's right for a location. Left turn arrows reduce wait time for drivers turning left. But, they also increase the length of time everyone else has to wait.

We look at several factors to decide if a left-turn arrow's right for a location:

  • collision history: looking at how many collisions could have been prevented by a left-turn arrow.
  • left-turning traffic volume: looking at how many motorists are making the left turn, compared to how long it takes to make the left turn.
  • left-turn capacity: looking at how difficult it is, or how long it takes, to make the left turn. We look at things like how long the green light is on and how much oncoming traffic there is.

Traffic signal

When you'll see many green lights in row

You see several green lights in a row when traffic signals are coordinated. Signals are coordinated for 1 direction of traffic, with priority given to the rush-hour direction of traffic. The other direction of traffic might get more red lights.

We coordinate over 20 groups of traffic signals in Surrey. We group traffic signals, usually 3 to 10 lights in a group, because this helps improve the traffic the most.

Traffic coordination also helps safety and reduces pollution, because drivers don't need to slow down and speed up so often.

How the traffic signal knows you're there

All traffic signals in Surrey are fully actuated. This means any vehicle driving up to a red light is detected, and triggers a green light.

When there isn’t any traffic, the signal stays green, facing the main street.

Your vehicle is detected by the light using inductance loops. An inductance loop is a wire in the pavement that acts like a magnet, and when a car drives over it, the magnetic field changes and tells the signal that the car is there.

In a few locations, vehicles are detected differently, like by video camera and microwave radar. If there's a problem with a detector, the signal stays green, just to make sure that anybody waiting gets a turn to go. When there's a pedestrian or cyclist at the light, using the pushbutton tells the signal to change.

Funding traffic signals and left-turn arrows

We fund and put in traffic signals through the Capital Construction Program.

Once we've determined that a traffic signal or left-turn arrow should be installed, we add the location to our Capital Construction Program. We prioritize the traffic light installation along with other projects in the 10-Year Servicing Plan.

Contact Traffic Operations by eMail at Traffic@Surrey.ca for more information on traffic signals, or to request a traffic signal be installed.