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Quebec pulls plug on traffic light pilot project that rewards drivers for good behaviour

The city of Brossard, on Montreal’s South Shore, has been forced to stop piloting a traffic calming technology after Quebec’s Transport Ministry said it wasn’t consulted about the project, which, it said, also didn’t respect provincial guidelines. 

On May 1, the municipality introduced the Educational Awareness Reward Light (EARL) on Stravinski Avenue, near Académie Marie-Laurier. Developer Kalitec, which is based in Laval, described EARL as a smart traffic light that rewards drivers for respecting speed limits.

Brossard Mayor Doreen Assaad’s plan was to test the light for 90 days, but the project was cut short after only 11 days when Quebec’s Transport Ministry ordered it to be suspended. The light was taken out of service on May 23.

“Everything we tried to do was rejected,” said Assaad. “I find it very unfortunate on their part.”

The light, which looks like a regular traffic light, is red when it’s at rest. Once a vehicle comes within range of its sensors, the light turns green to signal to the driver they’re respecting the speed limit. If they’re driving too fast, the light stays red, forcing them to slow down. 

WATCH | EARL in action before the Brossard pilot was ultimately cancelled:

quebec pulls plug on traffic light pilot project that rewards drivers for good behaviour

Quebec traffic light rewards good behaviour

2 months ago

Duration 1:44

Brossard, Que., has installed EARL, the education awareness reward light, on one of its streets. It can tell you’re approaching and will respond with a red or green light, depending on your speed. (Update June 22, 2023: Brossard was forced to withdraw the pilot project because it didn’t meet Transport Ministry guidelines.)

In a statement, the Transport Ministry said it wasn’t consulted about the pilot project.

Additionally, it believes EARL’s use of the red light could be confusing to drivers who typically associate the colour with a full stop, not with slowing down. It says this could lead to “major road safety issues.”

Assaad says she understands the province’s concerns but wishes it would have been more open-minded and seen the pilot through. As far as she’s concerned, Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault was kept “in the loop.”

“Guilbault had even congratulated us when we did our whole announcement. She was saying bravo for Brossard’s innovation.” 

Brossard Mayor Doreen Assaad said she wants to ensure citizens don't lose public transit service while waiting for the REM and dealing with the tunnel's lane reduction.
Brossard Mayor Doreen Assaad hoped Kalitec’s EARL could help make the city’s school zones safer for pedestrians. (CBC)

Though Brossard was the first municipality in Canada to use EARL, the technology has already been adopted by certain municipalities in France. 

According to Assaad, there are 50 other municipalities in Quebec interested in the technology. 

“The current rules, in my opinion, do not solve the issues that we have in Quebec,” she said. “If we were so good, we wouldn’t have all these municipalities looking [desperately] for innovation to make sure everyone is secure.”

Assaad says she’s still proud of what Brossard did with EARL. 

For its part, Kalitec says it will be meeting with the Transport Ministry soon. 

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