Frequently Asked Questions about BC highway cams
- Replay the Day
- About the Highway Cams - General Information
- About the ATIS Border Cam Images
- My highway cams (MyCams Tab)
- Highway Cam "Transmission Delayed" and Outages
- Highway Cam Maintenance
- Update Frequency, and Timestamp
- Highway Cam Placement
- About Weather Information
Q. What is Replay the Day?
A. Replay the Day provides the ability to replay the previous day's BC HighwayCam images in a video player format, providing a glimpse of weather and highway conditions leading up to the current image.
Q. Where can I find Replay the Day?
A. Replay the Day can be found on every BC highway cams page that displays a current image.
Q. How do I start Replay the Day?
A. When you open a BC highway cams page, look for the large green button marked "Replay the Day". It will be next to the orange "Weather" Button. Click the green button and the player will appear, with the most recent image displayed.
Q. How do I control Replay the Day, once it starts up?
A. Under the image is a set of player controls with three buttons. These work like most video controls:
- Left button: allows you to step backward through the images;
- Middle button: Play button, automatically plays the sequence of images;
- Right button: steps the images forward.
- You can also control the slider-bar manually, to select any image in the sequence.
Q. How do I close the Replay the Day window?
A. Close Replay the Day by clicking the circled "x" in the top right hand corner of the window.
Q. Can I download or email Replay the Day images?
A. No, downloading and emailing of the previous days images is not supported.
Q. What happens to replay the day images after a day?
A. Images older than a day are automatically overwritten by new images. Images older than 24 hours are not retained.
Q. The image I'm looking at has a grey button instead of green. What does that mean?
A. If you see a grey button, it is because the webcam is off or was recently turned off (due to a technical issue), and there are no images to display. If that is the case, please come back later when the webcam has been turned back on, and new images have accumulated.
Q. The webcam I was trying to replay had only a few images (less than a days worth of images) Why was that?
A. The webcam you are viewing may have been turned off previously, due to technical difficulties. When a webcam has been turned off, its previous day of images are automatically deleted. When the webcam is returned to service, it begins collecting images from that point on.
Q. I was viewing the Replay the Day player, when it unexpectedly disappeared. Why did it disappear?
A. The BC HighwayCam pages are scheduled to automatically reload every two minutes. This is to ensure you are being presented with up-to-date images. When the page refreshes, the Replay the Day window disappears during the refresh. You can restart the player by clicking the green "Replay the Day" button.
Q. While I am viewing a stream of images in the player, the sequence is peppered with black images. Yet if I go back to find them, they are not there. What is happening?
A. This is a known issue, due to download time and your computer's processing time. The player will perform more smoothly and with fewer black images if it is played a second time.
Q. Should I use Replay the Day on my mobile device?
A. Replay the Day is data intensive and may affect your data charges. As such, it is not recommended for mobile devices unless you are using Wi-Fi.
Q. Is there a version of Replay the Day work for my mobile device?
A. Replay the Day is not available for mobile devices yet. However a mobile version of Replay the Day is coming soon.
Q. Can I access Replay the Day from the webcams listed on DriveBC?
A. Yes, you can access Replay the Day two ways on DriveBC:
- Go to the Webcam List tab in DriveBC and select a webcam. The green "Replay the Day" button will appear on the page; or
- Select a webcam from the DriveBC map. When the bubble containing a webcam appears, click the image in the bubble. A page will open with the "Replay the Day" button.
Q. Does DriveBC use the same images that appear on the B.C. Highway Cams site?
A. Yes. All the cameras on the B.C. Highway Cams can be accessed in DriveBC by clicking on the webcam icon on the map.
Q. Why do some of the Highway Cam images appear "fuzzy".
A. At some locations in the lower mainland existing, older cameras have been used. Some of these older cameras do not have the best image quality, however they are still useful for this application. In rural cams, where cams communicate through cellular, resolution is reduced to facilitate faster, more reliable transmission.
Q. Why do some images at George Massey Tunnel periodically face in the wrong direction?
A. The cams at this location are managed by Operators who are able to manually take control of the cams to monitor traffic volumes or issues on the highway. While the cams are being overidden, they cannot return to their original presets and so their position may not match the caption and map icon image. Cams will return to their original preset position after the Operator has released control of the cam.
Q. I need to travel in an area that has a highway cam, but the "Transmission Delayed" message is displaying. I need to know the road conditions in that area -- what should I do?
A. Go to DriveBC for current road condition information for the area.
Q. Are these highway cams the same kind of hardware as the webcam I have on my computer?
A. No, These highway cams are specifically designed to withstand the difficult weather conditions they are placed in. Also, they are mounted high on poles to afford a greater field of view.
Q. Why are some of the images visible at night and others are not?
A. Some highway cams are located near existing street lights where those street lights are already installed. A number of highway cams are located on rural highways where street lights are not available. Newer cams are much more light sensitive than older cams, however some sort of light source is required for any of the cams to transmit a reasonably clear image.
Q. Why are some night images blurry?
A. Night shots will always be blurrier, especially with some of the older cams, and where there is only one light source. The older cams are not meant for night viewing, so the cams aperture will be wide open at night, resulting in a low depth of field. As well, to compensate for low-light, image resolution will be low.
Q.Who owns the cameras displayed on the Lions Gate Bridge Advanced Traveller Information System (ATIS) sites?
A. These cameras are owned by the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Q. Does the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure use the same type of cameras as other jurisdictions, like Washington State?
A. Generally yes, we use the same cams as most other jurisdictions. These highway cams are specifically designed to handle rugged conditions. However it is easier to maintain cams in an urban area, where power and communications are consistently better, than in remote areas where conditions can be extreme, and where communications and power connections can be less consistent.
Q. Is the ministry using solar power for webcams?
A. Yes, the ministry is using solar power in a couple of cases, however solar power is not yet a desirable alternative to standard power connections. This is because webcams using solar power must be turned off in the evenings to conserve power, and do not function well in foggy or cold climates. Additionally, most cams require internal heaters to keep lenses from icing or fogging in winter; solar power does not adequately accomodate this requirement. Kootenay cam is currently using solar power in the summer months, and a regular power connection during the winter. Cowichan cam uses solar power all year round.
Q. Has the ministry considered using satellite technology for communications, rather than cell or land line?
A. Yes, in fact the ministry is now using satellite technology at a number of webcam sites where regular cellular communications don't work.
Q. What does ATIS stand for?
A. Advanced Traveller Information System
Q. What is the URL to the Border ATIS?
Q. Are the border images on the BC highway cams and DriveBC sites the same images as the ATIS websites?
A. Yes, the border images on DriveBC and BC highway cams are copied from the ATIS Border website.
Q. Who owns the cameras displayed on the Border Crossing sites?
A. The system for the south bound traffic and associated cameras belongs to the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the system for the north bound traffic with cameras belongs to the Washington State DOT.
Q. Why is the information at the Peace Arch border crossing and Pacific Truck crossing in English sometimes differ slightly from that in French?
A. Every 5 minutes, or upon any delay change, the ATIS system automatically creates all 8 gif images shown on both ATIS web sites sequentially, starting with English images, then French. Each gif image contains the ATIS system date & time when the image was created. Depending on how busy the ATIS server is, the time shown in each image may differ by a few seconds.
Q. The web cam at Peace Arch seems to be updated less often than the Pacific crossing web cam, which is updated every 2 or 3 minutes, at least in French. Can it not be made more consistent and reliable?
A. The ATIS system uploads all 8 images created to the web server at the same time to ensure consistency between the English and French ATIS web sites. Inconsistency between the English and French website may occur if one's browser displays older cached images. Browser settings can be changed to always reload images upon a website visit or via a hard page refresh (for IE and FireFox, hold the "Ctrl" key down, then press the "F5" key).
ATIS camera images are captured independently by each camera approximately every 2 minutes. Each camera image contains the local camera date and time and are uploaded directly to the web server. Both ATIS web sites (French and English) display the same camera images. Camera image timestamps will differ by a few seconds since each camera operates independently.
Q. Does the Ministry run other ATIS systems?
A. Yes, the Lions Gate Bridge utilizes an ATIS system.
Q. Is there a way to display only the cameras I need to see?
A. Yes, by using the MyCams tab you can set up a page that shows only the cams you need. There is also a link to My highway cams located in the menu on the left; it opens the MyCams tab.
Q. Help! I had a selection of cams picked out on the MyCams tab, but now they are gone. What happened?
A. The selections you make relies on cookies in your browser. If you disabled cookies or deleted your browser cookies, the images will not display.
Q. I can see my selection of cams (in MyCams Tab) in one browser, but not another? Why not?
A. The selections you made in one browser will not appear in another browser because each browser requires its own set of cookies to work. You will need to make your selections in both browsers.
Q. Why do some of the B.C. Highway cams appear to go down at the worst possible times, like during blizzards, while others work all the time?
A. Many of the webcams depend on wireless (cell) communication and a regular power feed for operation. Unfortunately, both can be affected by extreme weather conditions.
Maintaining power and communication in remote, exposed areas like the Coquihalla Highway and Elkhart, can be especially challenging during extremely bad weather. For this reason remote webcams can go down for a few hours and come back working normally when the communication is restored. Some webcams, such as the Coquihalla Summit, work with land telephone line and are rarely down, except during power failures.
Q. Sometimes it takes a long time to get some cameras operational after an outage. Why is that?
In some cases, such as when a camera malfunctions at the source, a technician must visit it to fix it. Many of the highway cams are located in remote areas, making them difficult to promptly reach in extremely bad weather conditions. Our webcam technicians do their best to keep the webcams running, and they are very aware of the importance of the cams to the travelling public, however they can be subject to the same road delays during bad weather.
Q. That explains some of the remote cams, but what other problems can affect web cams?
A. Webcam operations can also be affected by problems with the cell carrier, FTP service, server and network errors, or regular computer glitches. When a camera goes down, technicians and ministry staff follow protocols to determine the source of the problem and fix it.
Q. What safeguards does the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure take to prevent stale images from appearing on the BC highway cams site and DriveBC?
A. When images are transmitted to our server from the cams, they are electronically monitored. If an image is not being transmitted, or if the same stale image is being transmitted repeatedly, our monitors detect this and send our technicians an alert. Images that do not update after an hour automatically change to a faded image with the words "Transmission Delayed". Stoppages like this are often caused by interupted communications, but other factors can also cause an image to appear "stale". After 24 hours, if the image has not updated, the cam is manually "turned off" on the website and replaced with a message. This is to prevent users from being misinformed by a stale image.
To minimize browser caching, which could cause your browser to display an old image when you open the site, the web pages have been set to update automatically every two minutes. That does not necessarily mean a new image will appear every two minutes -- just that the page will reload the most recent image available every two minutes. (Also see Update Frequency...) However, this can be disabled by your browser settings -- you may want to check the cache settings in your browser to ensure it checks automatically for newest versions of stored pages.
If you are unsure if your page is up to date, press F5 to reload the newest images to your page. Also, try Control-F5, which forces the browser to "get" the most recent html page and images from the server and display them.
Q. I have low bandwidth, and by the time the page loads in to my browser, the two minutes is up, and the page automatically refreshes again! This is very frustrating.
A. In Release 2.0 of the BC highway cams page the cams have been grouped into separate tabs, including My highway cams. If you select a tab with a smaller group, or set up the MyCams tab with only a few cams, your page will load faster.
Here's another trick: to stop the two-minute countdown, click on the numbers. The countdown will stop until you click on the numbers again. The countdown will also start with each new page you open.
A. Who maintains and fixes the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's webcams when they go down?
The cams are maintained by a combination of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure electricians and electrical maintenance contractors.
Q. Should I send an email to the ministry to let them know a highway cam is not showing images (i.e., "Transmission Delayed")?
A. No, the webmaster and ministry electricians monitor the site. As well, these groups are automatically alerted when images fail to appear.
Q. Do technicians always have to visit the cams when they malfunction?
A. No, depending on the nature of the problem, a technician can fix some problems remotely. In some cases, the problem may not be with the cam, but with other components of the system, such as the server or network.
Q. How often do the highway cam images update?
A. Most of the rural images (Northern, Southern Interior and Vancouver Island) are scheduled to provide a new image approximately every 10-15 minutes. More remote cams may provide an image every 30 minutes. The Lower Mainland images update between every two to 15 minutes.
Q. If the rural cams are scheduled to update every 15 to 30 minutes, why does the little counter at the top of each page say it will reload every two minutes/120 seconds?
A. The counter tells users when the web page will refresh, not when the images update. Page refreshes are done every two minutes to prevent image caching in the browser, and to ensure you are getting the most updated version of the image available.
Q. Must the index page refresh every two minutes?
The automatic refresh every two minutes ensures that users are getting the most up-to-date images. A longer refresh interval would increase the instances of stale images, especially for the lower mainland cams, which transmit new images every two to three minutes. You can stop the reload by clicking on the link in the text that says: "This page will reload in xx seconds (click to stop);" Click again to restart the reload countdown.
Q. The HighwayCam index page (homepage) refreshes so often that, when one has dial-up, the images do not all appear before the page starts refreshing all over again. Is there a way to stop the refresh?
Yes: click on the countdown number in the text at the top of the page -- this will stop the countdown to refresh for that session. Clicking on the countdown again will restart it.
Also, there are other ways to get to your images if the index page is refreshing faster than it is downloading to your computer (or mobile device):
- Use the DriveBC Mobile site to find your cams. It doesn't use images, so download is far quicker.
- Use MyCams (located in the left navigation bar) to select only the cams you want to view, then bookmark this page as your BChighway cams home page.
Q. Why are the rural images updated less frequently than the Lower Mainland images?
A. The cams serve slightly different purposes for drivers in these two areas:
- The rural cams primarily serve to show highway and weather condition information for drivers, so they can make informed decisions before they get in their car. Conditions are unlikely to change drastically between each 15-minute update, especially during summer conditions. Traffic congestion is secondary because it rarely occurs in rural areas.
- The lower mainland cams primarily serve to provide drivers with traffic congestion information, therefore the updates must be more frequent. Secondarily, the lower mainland cams show weather conditions when weather turns bad.
Q. Why not have the rural cams update more often?
A. There is also a cost/benefit factor weaved into the update frequency decisions. Because the rural cams utilize cellular communications, transferring large amounts of data, such as a webcam image, can be expensive. As it is unlikely weather conditions will change drastically in 15 minutes, especially during summer conditions, it was found that quarter-hour intervals would provide the most benefit to drivers who must make safe driving and route decisions -- at the least cost.
Q. What about "live streaming"? Wouldn't that solve the "update Frequency" problem?
A. "Live streaming" is currently not an option due to bandwidth issues, but its use is being reviewed for some select cams.
Q. Why do timestamps (the black bar with the time at the bottom of the larger images) sometimes display with a faded image, and a red bar with white type?
A. This is to notify travelers and technicians that the image is "stale"; that is, the image is over 20 minutes old. If the image remains stale for over 40 minutes, it is automatically replaced with a faded version of the last received image, and a "Transmission Delayed" message appears over top. Once the image updates, the "Transmission Delayed" message is replaced by the new highway cam image and the red bar will return to black.
Q. I hate those "Transmission Delayed" messages. Why not just leave the last image up, even if it is stale? Wouldn't a stale image be better than the "Transmission Delayed" faded image?
A. Many travelers rely on DriveBC and the highway cams for up-to-date safety and traffic congestion information. It would serve little purpose to leave stale images up, and could mislead travelers about road conditions.
Q. I was just looking at one of the webcams and noticed that the time of the image is in Pacific STANDARD Time and I am wondering why they are not in Pacific DAYLIGHT, since that this the time zone on the pass.
A. The webcams have inaccurate clocks that can display different times from the actual time. As well, they can not automatically handle changes from daylight saving time. For these reasons we control the time stamp on our webcam images from our central server in Victoria.
Q. The highway cams are situated all over B.C., in different time zones, and yet the timestamps (at the bottom of the larger photos) are from the same time zone. Why is that?
A. To avoid confusion for travellers, we chose to display the timestamp for all the cam images in Pacific Standard Time.
Q. How are highway cam locations chosen?
Rural highway cams are installed at locations that give travellers an indication of the road and weather conditions that they can expect. For example a number of highway cams were installed at locations where the Ministry already had weather stations.
Urban highway cams will also give an indication of the road and weather conditions but they also have the additional criteria of being installed to give an indication of the level of traffic using the highway. For example, cameras that were already installed at Local Operations Centres for traffic control at key locations around the Lower Mainland, were tapped to provide images to the B.C. Highways Cam website.
Q. What technical factors affect choosing a site?
A number of technical factors affect choosing of site. First, all sites must meet the following criteria:
- Power (Hydro) requirements to the cam
Communications carrier availability- is the cam within landline or cell proximity. (Satellite communications is being investigated.)
- Accessibility for maintenance;
- Reasonable costs of installation and maintenance
Q. Do new construction projects install highway cams?
New capital projects consider installing cams for at least the duration of the project, so long as they can meet the above criteria.,
Q. How does the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure decide where highway cams should be placed at a specific location?
A. The cams are strategically placed at locations that are representative of the travel conditions on that portion of highway.
Q. What are the technical issues with highway cam placement?
A. The key technical elements are the availability of power and communications. Many remote areas lack one or both of these.
Q. What kind of weather information can I expect to find on the BC highway cams web site?
A. Reports from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's weather stations and route forecast information from Environment Canada. The weather information is associated with the cams you are viewing. There are also links to Environment Canada, where you can find full reports from around the province.
Q. How do I find the weather information associated with each cam?
There are three ways:
1. On the BC HighwayCam homepage, click on a thumbnail image. When the large image page opens, locate the red "Weather Information" button below the image. Click on the button and weather information for that cam will appear beneath the image.
2. On the left nav bar, click on "Highway Cam Maps", then select a regional map. The map has yellow triangle symbols, which represent weather stations. Click on the yellow triangles for current weather information, and if available, the route forecast from Environment Canada.
3. If you have a PDA or slow bandwidth for your computer, go to the "Weather Information PDA Index" [link] where you will find a text listing of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Weather stations for current weather conditions, a listing of B.C. Route Forecasts, and links to Weather Warnings and other related information.
Q. I've gone to a BC HighwayCam image, and opened the panel with the red "Weather Information" button, but would now like to close it. How do I do that?
A. The red "Weather Information" button is a toggle -- if you click it again it will close the weather information panel.
Q. The weather information keeps appearing, even if I start a new session.
A. The web site"remembers" if you left the weather information panel open when you last left a session. Therefore, unless you close it, it will display open when you start a new session.
Q. Why do some cams have weather station reports, and some not?
A. Not all cams have weather stations, and not all weather stations have cams. Weather stations have much lower data transmission and power consumption requirements and therefore can be located in areas where its not feasible to locate a web cam. Where a weather station report is not available with a BC HighwayCam, a route forecast will be provided. All cams will have route forecast reports.
Q. Why does the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure have weather stations?
A. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure operates a network of weather stations to collect data that assists in decision making for Highway Maintenance and for Avalanche Forecasting. In addition, this data is used by weather forecasting agencies including Environment Canada to verify their forecasts and continually improve the forecasts' accuracy. Stations are located on the highway network where the effects of winter weather can be problematic for maintenance and / or avalanche considerations.
Q. Why are there not more weather stations on the highway network?
A. The ministry's weather network is sufficient to address current highway maintenance and avalanche safety concerns. There are a few known gaps in the network where stations will be installed over the next few years. One of the constraints is the availability of communications infrastructure for retrieval of data from the stations. As cellular coverage increases in remote areas of the Province, stations will be installed to fill in these gaps.
Q. Why are some stations only reporting precipitation and temperatures and other reporting more information?
A. The weather station network is set up to address the local concern at the site. Some of the stations provide data for road maintenance purposes and other provide data for avalanche forecasting. Consideration of the primary user group for the data from each station determines the allocation of sensors at that station.
Q. Where can I learn more about the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's Avalanche Safety Program?
A. Visit Avalanche Safety Program website.
Q. What if I want more detailed weather information for the rest of B.C.?
A. Visit Environment Canada for detailed weather reports from around B.C.
Q. Where does the weather information come from?
A. The weather reports on BChighway cams come from two main sources:
1. The ministry's own weather stations (RWS, RAWS - see below)
2. Environment Canada
Q. What does RWS and RAWS mean?
1. RWS - Road Weather Station - These reports are used in this web site.
2. RAWS - Remote Avalanche Weather Station - Only a select few of these reports are used (where they are in close proximity to a highway.)
Q. What is a "Route Forecast"
A. A route forecast is a single report that provides weather information for a number of areas along a highway route. For instance, the report for Highway 97 in the north may have a general regional report, but also reports for Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake, Watson Lake and so on.
Q. What is meant by "Current Weather " in the report windows? How current is it?
A. The "Current Weather" display panel displays the most recent data from Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure weather stations. These reports are very specific to the area they are in. They provide detailed information for air temperature, precipitation, wind speed, wind direction, and where available, road surface temperature. These reports are updated hourly.
Q. How should I use the "current" report from the Road Weather Stations? How are they placed and how large a radius does it cover?
A. The reports are very specific to the area that the cam and/or weather station is situated in. Generally, these weather stations are placed in areas where winter weather poses particular problems for highway maintenance and / or avalanche conditions, such as mountain passes. It is important to understand that these reports cover those areas specifically and may not reflect the weather conditions at different elevations further along the same highway route.
Q. What does "Current weather data has expired" mean?
A. The Ministry endeavors to collect data from all stations in the network each hour - usually within the first 20 minutes of the hour. Due to the nature of electronic communications in various weather conditions, data from one station or another may drop off if the station cannot be called in that hour. We maintain the "current" data for up to 90 minutes before it is expired from the site.
In addition, the focus of the Avalanche and Weather Program is to provide timely and accurate weather information to its clients through the winter weather season. During the summer, data may not be collected from some stations for longer time frames as this is not our core operational season - though we do the best we can.
Q. What does the term "water equivalent" mean?
A. Weather station instrumentation can detect moisture and amount, but they cannot indicate whether that precipitation is snow, rain, hail, etc. Therefore, the measure is given as a "water equivalent" -- the depth of water in mm that would result from melting the accumulated precipitation.