Nova Scotia

Commute drives student to track missing, damaged street signs in Halifax

Brennan Wilkie got the idea while driving to work and realizing how many signs were missing.

Brennan Wilkie discovered that one-third of Halifax intersections are missing one or more signs

This intersection of Cambridge and Norwood streets in Halifax is one of hundreds of intersections on the peninsula that's missing at least one sign. (Robert Short/CBC)

On his daily commute to Halifax from Fall River, Brennan Wilkie started to take notice of what he wasn't seeing.

"The route that I came in always seemed to be missing street signs," said Wilkie. "It wasn't just the side roads either; it was, like, the main thoroughfares."

This past summer, the Dalhousie University student started logging spots in Halifax and Dartmouth where street signs were missing or damaged.

Wilkie said he was surprised to find that about 35 per cent of intersections on the peninsula were missing a street sign. That number rose to more than 40 per cent when damaged or obstructed signs were taken into account.

"I was expecting somewhere around maybe 20 per cent maximum ... It's the sort of thing that you don't think about it until you need it, when you're trying to get somewhere and, 'Oh, there's no street sign there,'" said Wilkie, who's in his final year of electrical engineering.

Wilkie sought assistance from strangers online to help complete his map. (Submitted by Brennan Wilkie)

Using Google's feature to create custom maps, Wilkie placed a marker on every intersection on the peninsula, along with the street names that should be displayed there.

The idea was to check out every single one and update the map as information was gathered. With close to 1,100 intersections on peninsular Halifax alone, Wilkie enlisted the help of strangers on the internet.

After posting on the Halifax Reddit page, about a dozen other people in the city joined Wilkie in his quest to document missing and damaged signs. By September, the map was complete.

There is no posted signage for Joseph Howe Drive where it intersects with Mumford Road, a major intersection in the city's west end. (Robert Short/CBC)

Green markers indicate intersections where all signs are accounted for. Yellow markers indicate where one or more street signs were missing. Purple markers indicate street name changes, such as Spring Garden Road becoming Coburg Road.

There are also black markers, which indicate other issues.

"That could be anything from this sign is a little bit bent, to it's faded, to it's covered by leaves so you can't see it," said Wilkie.

Since finishing the Halifax project, Wilkie has created another custom map to track street signs in Dartmouth.

Typically, people are directed to call 311 to report any missing or damaged signs. Wilkie said because there were so many, he sent the whole map.

Wilkie's map, populated with data gathered by various people around the city, shows all the intersections where street signs are missing, damaged, faded or obstructed. (Google My Maps)

"There was a gentleman ... who actually took the time, or delegated the time, to take each and every one of these data points and log it as an individual work request, so it would make its way properly through Halifax's system," he said.

Work set to begin this winter

Ryan Nearing, a spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality, said there's been an influx of new reports regarding missing or damaged signs.

He said work orders have been submitted for all of them.

"Municipal staff will now be examining each of these locations and, if deemed necessary, a replacement will be installed," Nearing said.

That work is expected to begin over the winter months.

This intersection, missing one its street signs, is one of hundreds indicated with a yellow marker in Wilkie's custom map. (Robert Short/CBC)

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