Freeway Traffic Management System

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COMPASS, also referred to as Freeway Traffic Management System, is a system run by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) to regulate the flow of traffic on the 400-series highways. COMPASS-enabled highways include Highway 401 (Ajax to Mississauga, Ivy Lea, Kingston, London and Windsor), one of the highest-volume highways in the world, as well as the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW Toronto to Stoney Creek, Fort Erie), Highway 402 (Vyner to Sarnia), Highway 403 (Misissauga and Burlington), Highway 404 (Toronto to Markham), Highway 405 (Niagara Falls), Highway 410 (Mississauga), Highway 409 (Toronto), Highway 417 (the Queensway, Ottawa) and Highway 427 (Toronto). The MTO also has cameras for non-400 series roadways:

  • Thorold Stone Road
  • Wolfe Island Ferry Terminals - Kingston and Wolfe Island (2)
  • 1000 Islands Parkway - Ivy Lea
  • E.C. Row Expressway - Windsor

COMPASS uses pairs of in-road sensors to detect the speed and density of traffic flow. This data is fed to a central computer at the MTO Downsview office and analyzed by operators, who also view the feeds of traffic cameras placed along the highways. Changeable Message Signs (CMS) then display messages to motorists on the highways, advising them of upcoming collisions, closures, detours and traffic flow.


The primary algorithm used by the Ministry is known as the McMaster algorithm, designed by Professor Fred Hall of McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario. Incident Detection algorithms have also been widely used throughout the COMPASS-enabled area.

Research on new algorithm developments and evaluations is performed at the ITS Centre and Testbed (ICAT), at the Civil Engineering department of the University of Toronto. The ICAT is equipped with direct fibre-optic links to the Ministry of Transportation, and received both traffic camera and loop detector data on a live basis. Visual data can be used to confirm the presence of incidents detected by the various algorithms.

COMPASS cameras[edit]

Sections with COMPASS cameras:

  • QEW from Highway 427 to 50 Rd (Toronto to Stoney Creek)
  • QEW from 7th Street to Mountain Road (St. Catharines to Niagara Falls)
  • QEW from Thompson Rd to Bowen Rd (Fort Erie)
  • Highway 400 from south of 401 to Langstaff Road (Toronto-Vaughan)
  • Highway 401 from near Highway 410 to near Harwood Avenue (Mississauga-Ajax)
  • Highway 401 from near Wellington Road South to near Old Victoria Road South in (London, Ontario)
  • Highway 402 from Mandaumin Road to Front Street North (Sarnia)
  • Highway 403 from Highway 401 to QEW (Mississauga-Oakville)
  • Highway 403 from QEW to west of King Road (Burlington)
  • Highway 404 from Highway 401/Don Valley Parkway to Steeles Ave (Toronto-Markham)
  • Highway 405 from QEW to Queenston-Lewiston Bridge (St. Catharines-Niagara On The Lake)
  • Highway 406 from near Third Avenue to QEW
  • Highway 409 from Highway 401 to Martin Grove Road (Toronto)
  • Highway 410 from Courtneypark Road to Highway 401 (Peel Region)
  • Highway 417 from Ottawa Road 174 to 416/Richmond Road (Ottawa Region)
  • Highway 427 from Gardiner Expressway/QEW to Finch Avenue (Toronto-York Region)
  • Highway 58 from Pine Street to Thorold Stone Road (including Thorold Tunnel) (Thorold)

False alarms[edit]

A false alarm for incident detection is not only highly undesirable, but seriously damages the confidence in the detection system. Therefore, a near 100% alarm accuracy is needed. This does not mean that 100% traffic parameter accuracy is required from the traffic sensors; however, the logical commands that analyze the change in traffic parameters need to be selected carefully in order to minimize the probability of false alarms yet detect all major incidents as well as a high percentage of all other incidents. Most importantly, confirmation of incident and evaluation of incident type by manual inspection of a video camera screen is probably the most significant incident detection technique.

See also[edit]


Explanation of the logical functioning of COMPASS