Mayor John Tory hopes to ring in the new year with less congested streets as he unveiled a six-point plan to immediately combat Toronto’s gridlock.
Speaking at the Don Mills traffic management centre on Thursday morning, Tory said his plan will bring “some immediate action” and “real relief” while longer-term solutions are put in place.
“I was elected on a mandate to get this city moving,” Tory said.
Tory took every chance to discuss gridlock during the mayoral election, including piping up when the Detroit Red Wings bus got stuck in downtown traffic, delaying a preseason game with the Leafs.
Joined by Coun. Jaye Robinson, chair of the public works and infrastructure committee, Tory said he wants to “address traffic as quickly as possible.”
“Traffic is strangling the city and people are fed up of it,” he said, adding that the gridlock is costing the city and affecting family life.
The Toronto Region Board of Trade estimated that gridlock costs the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area almost $6-billion annually in lost economic output and job loss.
Tory said some of the work is already taking place. Although he said easing gridlock “won’t happen overnight, we’re going to begin the process today of taking very definite steps to do just that.”
Here is Tory’s six-point plan:
1. Parking enforcement & “no stopping”
Tory said he will work with Toronto police Chief Bill Blair to redeploy parking enforcement officers from residential streets to key intersections and major roads during rush hour.
Also, starting Jan. 1, after a one-month education period, there will be zero-tolerance for vehicles blocking lanes on main roads during rush hour.
From commuters stopping to pick up dry-cleaning to delivery trucks, all offenders will be targeted under the plan.
“I want there to be no confusion on this. Park in those places on the major routes after the education period — you will be towed,” Tory said, joking he will drive a tow truck himself if he has to.
Tory said that while delivery and shredding trucks conduct important business, it is not more important than inconveniencing the lives of thousands. But he could not comment on the likelihood of towing armoured cars.
2. Chairing road closures committee
Tory will personally chair the road closures coordination committee for the next six months in what he called “a means of indicating we have to do better.”
Tory said it is not acceptable to have the Gardiner Expressway closed the same weekend that there are hockey and baseball games, on top of a partial subway shutdown for track repairs, and he will personally chair the road closures coordination committee to ensure that doesn’t happen.
“It just doesn’t make sense to have all that going at the same time. We can’t go on this way — it’s insensitive. It can’t be a part of Toronto.”
Tory added the city’s road closure reporting system must be modernized. Right now, the information is made available to the city by fax.
3. Multi-organizational traffic enforcement team
Tory said he will deploy 40 additional traffic cameras on arterial roads and another 80 in 2016.
“This means, more eyes on the roads so staff can communicate directly with Toronto police about traffic problems and get them solved much, much faster,” he said.
Tory also wants to work with police and get broken down cars and crash scenes cleared off roads quicker.
He said he will partner with media outlets to put city-accessible traffic cameras on their aircraft.
“Our friends in the media have already put in the air, at their own expense, traffic-spotting aircraft that report to people through television and radio,” Tory said.
“And I have begun already exploring a partnership with them where they would also put a camera in those planes,” Tory said.
The cameras would feed into the screens at the traffic management centre.
Tory said he was contacted by 680News aiborne traffic reporter Darryl Dahmer about a recent fender bender on the Spadina Avenue ramp to the Gardiner Expressway that tied up traffic all the way to Bloor Street. It took around two hours for the stalled car to be removed from the ramp.
“We simply have to do better than this,” he said.
4. Traffic signal timing
Tory said he will work with city staff to accelerate the traffic signal retiming plan to have 350 signals, instead of 250, coordinated by 2015.
“This will allow traffic to move better. We will also move faster to test and pilot the new Smart Traffic Signal technology that can sense traffic flows and respond in real time,” he said.
5. Construction & unnecessary road closures
Tory said he will push for more stringent criteria and higher fees for private developers who want to close lanes to accommodate their construction projects.
“By attaching a real price to closing down lanes of traffic, I believe we will significantly reduce the number of lanes of traffic that we have to close, and the length of time those lanes are closed.”
6. Faster completion of construction projects
Public sector projects can be finished faster if the city extends work hours, Tory said.
“This means, implementing 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. construction wherever possible … and building in cost premiums for completing construction projects early.”
Click below interactive to view commute times by Toronto city wards. Data courtesy of Statistics Canada. Mobile viewers, click here.
See the interactive map and chart of average commute times for Canadian cities. Data courtesy of StatsCan. Mobile viewers click here.
Read the complete plan below, or click here for a mobile-friendly version.
During the campaign, Tory touted about a dozen solutions, almost all of which, he said came from previously published city staff reports.
Click here to read the city’s five-year plan to combat traffic congestion.