Knowledge CentreTechnical Resources SearchConference PapersMESSAGE STANDARDIZATION ON VARIABLE MESSAGE SIGNS (VMS)



The ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ) is always striving to improve road safety conditions, while at the same time facilitating traffic flow. In recent years, this effort has taken the form of ongoing updates of road sign standards, which have been documented in Volume V—Traffic Control Devices. Updates are based on the integration of new procedures, improved equipment, experimentation, special training, and mechanisms for disseminating information and raising awareness. In particular, the MTQ has recently begun to focus on the development of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). Variable Message Signs (VMS), which are illuminated panels that allow different messages to be transmitted to road users in real time, are a key element of these systems. The messages displayed on VMS can provide information about construction in progress, traffic conditions, road conditions, or about incidents and accidents. The use of VMS therefore allows users to change their travel plans according to traffic conditions and obstructions, and thereby improves both user safety and traffic flow. VMS are thus becoming more and more common on Quebec roads. It was decided that current practices needed to be studied, evaluated and improved in order to ensure the consistency of messages transmitted to users. A research project to that effect was carried out by a team at the Université de Montréal, under the supervision of the ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ). The project was completed in the summer of 2005. With the submission of the final report, a working group of Ministry experts in the use of VMS was given the task of making recommendations for provincial standards based on the findings presented. The following points were addressed: o Type of VMS to be used—display characteristics and dimensions; o Regulations for placement and installation; o Regulations and guidelines for message prioritization; o Message content—i.e. terminology for different circumstances (traffic congestion, construction, weather conditions, etc.); o Various examples of uses of the main terms on different sizes of VMS; o A series of pictograms designed especially for VMS. Standards were introduced in Volume V—Traffic Control Devices in March 2006, and have been used by the managers of Quebec’s road systems ever since.

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Trépanier, S