Toronto to get traffic wardens to help ease congestion at major intersections

Toronto Mayor John Tory says the city plans to deploy full-time "traffic wardens" at major intersections to manage the flow of vehicles and pedestrians starting early next year.

Tory announced suite of measures aimed at reducing city traffic

Mayor John Tory says the city plans to deploy full-time "traffic wardens" at major intersections to manage the flow of vehicles and pedestrians starting early next year. (CBC)

Toronto Mayor John Tory says the city plans to deploy full-time "traffic wardens" at major intersections to manage the flow of vehicles and pedestrians starting early next year.

The wardens will likely wear bright orange or green coats to ensure they are visible, Tory said.

Under a pilot project conducted in two phases this year, the city hired paid duty police officers to manage vehicle traffic flow at a key intersections where there were bottlenecks. Tory said changes to Ontario's Highway Traffic Act means the city will be able to deploy traffic wardens permanently — but they will not be police officers.

"The results of the pilot project are in and the pilot project worked," Tory told reporters on Monday.

The measure was one of six announced by the mayor at Nathan Phillips Square. 

"I am here today to tell you we are significantly escalating our efforts to keep Toronto moving," Tory said.

According to Tory, the city will also:

  • Create two rapid response teams that will clear lanes blocked by vehicles that have stalled or that have been involved in minor collisions; one team will focus on downtown lanes, while other will focus on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.
  • Ask utility companies, including Toronto Hydro, to carry out non-emergency work that require lane closures during off peak hours, or between the hours of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  • Install "smart signals" in November that will monitor traffic flow and change signal lengths when appropriate.
  • Share traffic data with Waze, a community-based traffic and navigation app, starting in October. The measure means the city's traffic operations centre have more information about traffic patterns and app users will be better able to plan their routes.
  • Ask the city for a report on the possibility of increasing fines for traffic-blocking offences.

In a news release on Monday, Tory said that "we owe it to drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders to make sure our city moves in the best way possible. While we have made progress improving how you get around, we can always do more. I am determined to deal with the congestion choking our roads."

It's not the first time that Tory has rolled out a six-point plan to address traffic: a 2014 version focused on road closure reporting, traffic signal re-timing and speeding up public construction. 

A CAA study from the beginning of the year showed that half of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the country are found in the GTA. (CBC)

Tory's announcement comes as the Toronto Police Service launches what it calls a "rush-hour route enforcement" campaign aimed at easing gridlock in the downtown core.

"There will be zero tolerance for vehicles found blocking and congesting rush-hour routes," the police said in a news release on Sunday.

The campaign, which began on Monday, will continue until Friday. 

Police said parking enforcement officers and police officers from traffic services will be in the downtown core this week, issuing tickets and towing vehicles that are obstructing rush-hour routes.