At any time thousands of drivers are on B.C. highways trying to get places as soon as they can.
And there is a team of people keeping an eye on all of that that traffic – in a building nestled between Highway 1 and Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam.
Transportation Management Centre staff keep watch on over 600 cameras throughout the province. And when you are on the Lions Gate Bridge, Penny Martin is watching and decides when to flip the counterflow lane.
There are sensors and computers but Martin says it is often simply watching the causeway cameras for volume that will guide her decision to flip the lane.
And it’s not just for Metro Vancouver. With the flick of a mouse people here can change the speed limits on the Sea to Sky or Coquihalla highways using the new variable speed limit signs.
Centre manager Brigid Canil says they use advanced traffic management software to change speed limits, almost instantly, based on weather or traffic conditions.
But what if the speed limit changes from 120 kilometres an hour to 80 km/hr and police pull you over?
“We would know exactly what times the signs would change and be able to correlate what time the ticket was written to ensure the individual is treated fairly,” said Transportation Minister Todd Stone.
Another big issue is privacy. On the Drive BC website you can see a “Replay the Day” video of many locations – but they say they don’t keep piles of surveillance.
“We don’t keep the data and that is directly in response to concerns about privacy,” said Stone.
Road sensors track average speeds, while others even keep an eye on road temperature.
There are also over 70 highway message signs, which can be changed in seconds from one desk, warning of everything from changing weather to road closures caused by forest fire.
A wall of high-definition screens is on around the clock. And no, staff cannot change them to watch a big game.