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Andrew Posluns, right, head of the Transportation Ministry’s Pan Am talks with the Ministry’s Stephen Erwin, left, in the Compass Transportation Management Centre control room.

Matthew Sherwood

Coffee and fruit were laid out on a nearby table, along with a mostly demolished cake – fuel for the small team tasked with keeping the Toronto area moving during the Pan Am Games.

In the traffic nerve centre down the hall, about 30 people were handling the torrent of information and trying to react in real time.

"Different days, depending which events are happening, you get the localized impacts around the venues," said Jamie Austin, a senior official with the Ministry of Transportation's Pan Am group.

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"We may hear that we've got long queues on the street going into the venue at this time. Can we make some signal changes? … Can we deploy a police officer to assist with traffic management, if that's necessary? That can all happen here."

The transportation plan was four years in the making and moved into top gear at the end of June, when 235 kilometres of temporary carpool lanes, mostly on area highways, came into effect. It has been a grind since then, with this facility in northwestern Toronto staffed from dawn until late in the day. And with the Games set to finish Sunday, there appears to be a cautious willingness to declare victory.

The effort is known as the Unified Transportation Co-ordination Centre. If traffic wasn't the disaster during the Games that critics had predicted – though hard data proving that are not currently available to the public – some of that can be attributed to the efforts of the people here.

Much of their information flowed in from the 220 cameras on regional highways. These feeds were appearing on a 13-metre screen in a separate area of the building but could be directed to the UTCC room, where representatives from police, transit, the ministry and different jurisdictions were gathered.

Officials say that putting all these agencies in the same room has helped them react more quickly and effectively.

Stephen Erwin, head of the intelligent transportation systems program at the Ministry of Transportation, said the Games were also a good time to try out different approaches. Even something as simple extra signs alerting drivers to delays – using information gathered through Bluetooth technology – can help.

"We're finding that signs are pretty accurate," he said. "We do watch various routes. If they're on one of the high-demand days or there's activities going on there, we'll be keeping a closer eye either with the cameras or crews out there. So we do watch those routes, just to try to pick things up faster."

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According to Andrew Posluns, who heads the Ministry of Transportation's Pan Am effort and steered the UTCC's work, they were guided by three principles: They wanted to get athletes and officials to events on time, handle the volume of spectators and keep non-games traffic moving.

He said this week that they had succeeded. "We're drawing from information that comes into this centre," he said. "What we're seeing is that … the objectives that we've set out are working."

But Mr. Posluns offered no proof for the claim, saying they didn't have the staff to crunch the data for release. The information will be made public eventually, he promised.

"We'll have that opportunity later to sort of mull through the data," he said. "Later, as we get to … the post-Games environment, the opportunity to sit down with the data, we'll be able to give more of a kind of formal assessment."

Taking this time allows for a more thorough look at how the traffic plan worked. It also means that if there is bad news, if the traffic delays were worse than projected, it won't land during the Games and cast a pall.

The end of the Pan Am Games on Sunday will give the transportation staff a bit of respite before the Parapan Am Games start on Aug. 7.

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The second round of events is expected to attract smaller crowds, with correspondingly less impact on traffic. But the people behind this transportation plan know that, even after 50 test exercises, the unexpected can strike at any moment.

"We always say we planned for every scenario," Mr. Austin said. "We didn't plan for a group of Brazilian cyclists heading up the Don Valley Parkway, unfortunately."

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