Giving ambulances, fire trucks priority at traffic lights could cut their travel times, Winnipeg study says

Winnipeg fire trucks and ambulances could cut down on travel time by 20 per cent if the city upgrades its transportation management system to give emergency vehicles priority at traffic signals, a study says.

A city-commissioned feasibility study says a system that allows emergency vehicles to pre-empt normal operation of traffic lights would allow the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service to save more lives, prevent more properties from being lost to fire and save $25 million a year in health-care and insurance costs.

But there is no recommendation for the city to institute emergency vehicle pre-emption, or EVP, as the city would be on the hook for all the costs.

“The main benefits of EVP are largely external to the city, in the form of decreased health-care costs and reduced property lost to fires, while the city would directly bear the cost of acquiring and implementing an EVP system,” MORR Transportation Consulting writes in the study, published by city council on Tuesday morning.

In a report to city council’s community services committee, fire-paramedic service program manager Linda Hathout recommends council receive the report as information, without taking further action.

The study authored by MORR says Winnipeg already has the ability to give emergency vehicles priority at 24 of its 681 intersections with signals. 

Upgrading the entire system to a centralized EVP system would cost $930,000 a year, the study says, though a more limited application of EVP could cost as little as $80,000 a year.

The study says the benefits of the spending would outweigh the costs, as citywide EVP could cut down the average ambulance or fire truck travel time by 54 seconds.

The report cites other studies that said time savings of mere seconds reduce deaths from heart attacks, and every minute significantly reduces the chance of losing properties to fire.

The report is slated to go before council’s community services committee, now chaired by Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), on Monday.

Lead clean-up at 2 sites

In a separate report to council’s community services committee, the city’s parks and open spaces division says in 2023, it wants to clean up lead-contaminated soil at Weston Memorial Community Centre’s hockey rink and the eastern end of Mission Park.

The division is asking council to set aside $450,000 in next year’s budget to do the work.