CBC Pothole Safari

Kumar Sharma, Physics and Astronomy, investigating the worst potholes in Winnipeg

On April 9th, 2009 I spent approximately two hours driving around in the CBC truck with Marcy Markusa of CBC's Information Radio Winnipeg, in a quest for the most frightening potholes in Winnipeg.

An accelerometer (a common semiconductor chip, used in cameras and cell phones to sense orientation) was mounted on the dashboard. The device was set up to provide a signal that was proportional to the vertical acceleration of the dash board. I felt that this would be a fair measure of how much the truck was being bumped up and down by the potholes. The signals it produced were recorded on a laptop PC through the microphone input using sound recording software. The recordings, obtained during a one to three minute drive over each street, are shown in the pages that follow in the links below. The analysis looked at three indicators: the instantaneous peak level, the maximum level averaged over a 50 ms interval and the long term average level. The bar graph shows the streets in order of their average ranking from all three of these criteria. Also shown for each street, are the scores in each of these categories.

It is difficult to be independent from several subjective factors:

  • The speed at which the vehicle is driven changes the feel of the potholes.
  • The suspension of the vehicle and the size of the wheels also change its response.
  • The driver must resist their natural sense of preservation and force themselves to hit the pothole rather than instinctively avoid them.
  • Through out the experiment we had feelings of photographers remorse: -Oh! That was a good one. -We should have recorded that one.

Clearly, the area to the southwest of Confusion corner bounded by Corydon, Hugo and Pembina Highway was the worst we encountered. My apologies to the nominators of the region near Ness Avenue and Century Avenue but your "best stretch" had been closed to traffic for repairs. Kudos to the city repair crews, most streets were pretty good. Marcy Markusa was an excellent Safari Guide.