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Water taxis, construction fines could relieve Toronto’s gridlock: mayoral candidates

Toronto mayoral candidates John Tory and Olivia Chow have drawn up blueprints for how to tackle the city’s worsening gridlock — and they include water taxis and construction fines.

Tory was first out of the gate, holding an event on Thursday morning to outline his plan, which includes ideas championed by Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong and Coun. Josh Colle.

“I think gridlock and transit are the largest challenges — economic and social — facing the city,” Tory said.

“What I want to do is move those [ideas] ahead faster … because I think we’re reaching a crisis proportion for families and, for that matter, the economy.”

Perhaps the most creative of his plans is to consider water taxis, which he said are used in Chicago and would use less fuel — and be more environmentally friendly — than buses and taxis.

“We’ve studied it before. I’m saying it’s time to look at it again,” he said.

“I think we have to think a little bit outside the box.”

Tory also suggested better timing for construction projects, testing out new signal technology, parking enforcement during rush hour and express buses on routes like Don Mills Road, Dufferin Street and Front Street.

Read his Fighting Gridlock Initiative here.

While Chow agreed construction and outdated traffic lights add to congestion, she said Tory is “out of touch” to come up with water taxis as a solution.

At a lunchtime news conference, she said as mayor she would crack down on drivers who try to squeeze through a traffic light and end up blocking the intersection, use prohibitive fees for lane closures due to construction and fine companies that block lanes without doing work.

She also wants to hire a traffic coordinator to work in the mayor’s office.

“If re-elected, Rob Ford would make traffic worse by doing nothing on transit until 2023,” Chow said.

“That’s a recipe for more gridlock, and we can do better.”

Read Chow’s plan here.

Mayor Ford countered by touting the congestion management plan now in place in the city, which was part of his 2010 election campaign.

“Under my leadership the City of Toronto has created an aggressive plan to tackle congestion by coordinating lights,” Ford tweeted.

“While others in Toronto talk about fixing gridlock, my administration has created a plan and put it into action.”

NOTE: The story above has been edited from a previous version to include the fact that traffic-light synchronization was part of Ford’s 2010 mayoral election campaign.