First Media InterviewPosted: January 22, 2011
I had my first interview on Thursday around noon with the local radio CIBL to comment on an article in La Presse about the implementation of a network of traffic cameras with an “electronic brain” in Montreal. I do not think I was very good as I was quite nervous and did not speak very clearly (people who know me know how I do not like the telephone so much: the audio is here, and I talk about 14 minutes after the beginning). The journalist was nice, we talked prior to the interview and he told me most of the questions and themes that were discussed in the interview.
Answering questions was actually not easy as the article was severely lacking in specifics and references. The author cited numbers and comparisons to traffic monitoring and management systems in other cities, without even mentioning the names of these systems. I did a quick search before the interview on the systems installed in Toronto to be able to answer more precisely. I found that the author probably referred to a test of the SCOOT traffic control system in 1993 that showed among other things a decrease of delay of 17% (and more) and to the COMPASS traffic monitoring and management system implemented on the highway 401, for I could find little evaluation information (a significant decrease in incident duration). As far as I know from discussions with people at the city and a recent presentation, the system that is currently being installed in the first phase of the project is rather similar to COMPASS, albeit for arterial roads: attributing the 17% decrease in delay to it is a pretty big factual confusion.
Another point which is quite frustrating is the typical hyperbole employed when talking about intelligent transportation systems: most of such systems are not really intelligent in any way one can reasonably put under the term. Most of it consists in “advanced” technology applied to transportation, with a lot of (wireless) communications: such systems do not actually exhibit intelligent features (e.g. learning and automated adaptation to changing conditions). The title of the article is frankly ridiculous and has nothing to do with any current project at the city.
Overall, it is an interesting experience, it is part of the job, and as our department head puts it, better they talk to us to get some stuff straight (or straighter) than not. The journalist was obviously looking for answers on some potentially controversial issues, like the impact of the new highway bridge linking Montreal to Laval (the A25, more on this later) and the possible future implementation of tolls on the island of Montreal (that should be the topic of another post: although I think it would be both fair and a good way to optimize the transportation system, it is not the engineers’ decision). I hope they were happy about my intervention…