Toronto police Chief Bill Blair says it’s time to have a conversation about how technology can help keep traffic moving during rush hour, including the expanded use of traffic cameras at intersections.
Blair told reporters Monday that there are more than 2,000 signal-controlled intersections in Toronto where turns are prohibited during rush hour, each of which can be a problem if drivers are not obeying the law.
"If people ignore those signs and make the turn, then everybody behind them is going to have to wait," Blair told reporters, after addressing an audience at the Canadian Club.
In his mind, the best way to ensure that drivers are following the rules is to use technology to monitor their compliance.
The police chief said that the city would need to back such an initiative for it to become a reality.
“There has to be enabling legislation passed by the province, but I think there has to be a strong commitment from the city that this is the right thing to do,” said Blair.
"And so I think it’s important to initiate that conversation and that's what I've done."
Blair said that his concern is about keeping people safe and not about generating revenue for the city — though he admits the public has reservations about the use of traffic cameras and photo radar.
"I just want to make sure that we get people thinking about the best way to get this done and I think using technology, it makes sense," he said.
"This is a sensible way to apply technology to a job that is otherwise very labour intensive."
The alternative is to use police officers to enforce traffic rules, which Blair said means that on-scene officers can only deal with a limited number of cases and can end up having to attend court as a result.
"It’s an expensive, not terribly efficient way of getting that job done," said Blair.
"Technology enables to do that far quicker and with greater level of certainty — and where there is certainty, I think there is greater compliance."
Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, who serves as chair of the city’s public works committee, likes the idea.
"There is nothing more frustrating than being right at that light, waiting for it to turn green, and seeing a car blocking your way," Minnan-Wong told CBC News in an interview Monday.
"It adds to congestion, it adds to gridlock, and it is incredibly frustrating."
Coun. Karen Stintz, who intends to run for mayor next year, tweeted on Monday that the chief is promoting the camera concept "to make sure the roads are safe and get people home on time."