750 local schools could gain community safety zones, speed enforcement
Latest Vision Zero proposal follows several children dying this year near Toronto schools
Community safety zones could soon be developed around hundreds of Toronto schools, in hopes of boosting safety for young students — another piece of the city's Vision Zero road safety plan.
If city council gives the proposal a green light, more than 750 elementary schools could become the centres for the new zones. That would lead to speeding fines being doubled in those neighbourhoods across the city, according to a new report that's heading to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday for approval.
"Currently a school zone is only 150 metres, which really doesn't cut it to create a safe environment," said Coun. Jaye Robinson, the committee's chair.
Community safety zones, in contrast, don't have a measurement limitation.
Signage marking the areas, flashing lights, and zebra-style road markings are all expected in the years ahead if the zones are approved, much like what's currently at some schools throughout the city.
Robinson said the new zones would also allow the city to put up cameras and implement automated speed enforcement — more commonly known as photo radar — through a collaboration with Toronto police.
"It's a huge step forward for Toronto's road safety plan," she said.
'They have to spend more money'
This latest element of the city's ongoing Vision Zero efforts, a push to bring the city's road deaths to zero, follows several children dying so far this year near Toronto schools.
In January, a five-year-old girl was killed in a parking lot at St. Raphael Catholic School in North York, and the following month, an 11-year-old boy was struck and killed near Kennedy Public School in Scarborough.
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Even after the boy's death, school crossing guard Gus Kanellos said he still sees cars driving quickly through the residential neighbourhood and welcomed Kennedy Public School's inclusion on the city's list for a future community safety zones.
"They have to spend more money on the schools to make it safe," he said.
And more money is indeed needed, according to the latest report, with transportation services requesting $1.48 million in additional operating and capital funding, which will be considered as part of the 2019 budget process.
Photo radar needs provincial support
Both the public and Catholic Toronto school boards told CBC Toronto they support the city's efforts to increase safety for their students.
"Anything that will slow down drivers around schools, we're absolutely in favour of," said Robin Pilkey, chair of the Toronto District School Board.
But even if both the public works committee and city council approve the new zones, it's not yet clear if photo radar around Toronto schools will become a reality.
Robinson said that's because the city doesn't yet have "the full thumbs up from the province."
Photo radar and other enforcement tools are new options allowed by proposed provincial legislation called the Safer School Zones Act, which Robinson hopes is pushed forward by the incoming Progressive Conservative government — despite the party's criticism of the bill last year over fears it would be a "cash grab."
Road markings and signage simply aren't enough, she said. "We're ready to roll this out."