More speed bumps and cameras? Toronto looks to change rules slowing road safety equipment expansion
City staff ask council to okay changes in an update to Toronto’s Vision Zero strategy
The city wants to make it easier to expand use of traffic calming measures like speed bumps and install more automated speed enforcement cameras to help reduce road deaths on Toronto streets.
The requests come in a report from city staff which will be considered Wednesday by council's Infrastructure Committee. Staff want to change rules which critics describe as cumbersome and slow their ability to get speed bumps built around Toronto. They also want to grow the number of specially defined "community safety zones" where automated speed cameras can be installed, a move that lines up with council's plan to more than double the number of cameras currently installed around the city.
"We are definitely not doing enough to save lives on our streets," said Coun. Dianne Saxe, a member of the Infrastructure Committee. "We have the tools, we're just not doing it."
Toronto introduced its Vision Zero road safety plan in 2016 after it saw a 10-year record high of 78 traffic fatalities. While those numbers have been coming down since the plan was created, safety advocates say deaths and injuries on city streets continue to happen at an unacceptable rate.
As of Sept. 30, there have been 28 traffic deaths and 145 people have been seriously injured in traffic collisions around the city in 2023.
Saxe said a suite of tools can be used to make Toronto roads safer, and the updated plan is a "small step" in that direction.
"We need more red light cameras and we need more automated speed cameras because people know the rules," Saxe said. "They know you're supposed to drive at the speed limit and stop at a red light. And many do not."
The report asks councillors to streamline the process by which city staff create speed bumps. They say that traffic calming infrastructure is "relatively inexpensive, quick to install and effectively reduce motor vehicle speed."
The city installed 185 speed bumps last year at a cost of $4,000 each. They take one to two days to install. But staff say that from the initial request from a neighbourhood to the date of installation can take two years, on average.
Right now, if a resident wants speed bumps introduced on their street, they must petition neighbours to raise support, residents must be polled, and city staff must perform a number of studies.
Cycle Toronto's director of advocacy and public policy, Alison Stewart, said the rules shouldn't be that onorous to install road safety equipment.
"These changes being proposed in the report are definitely something that's going to help improve that progress, which has been, frankly, a little bit heavily burdened by bureaucracy," she said.
Stewart said Cycle Toronto would like to see the city better coordinate its road safety plan with its broader congestion management work. A major update of that plan is also before the committee on Wednesday.
"Even for able-bodied individuals navigating around construction zones can be very dangerous and confusing," she said.
Coun. Brad Bradford said he supports the city's push to expand automated speed enforcement. The cameras save lives, he said.
"We've seen that they've proven to be effective," he said. "And at the end of the day, it's about behaviour change. You should not be doing 60 kilometres an hour through a neighborhood, past a school."
There are currently 75 mobile automated speed enforcement cameras in Toronto. The plan would expand the number of community safety zones allowing them to be placed in more areas of the city.
In March, city council asked staff to investigate buying and installing 75 cameras as soon as possible.
Bradford said the cameras serve as an effective deterrent, slowing drivers down.
"The speed in which some of these collisions and impacts take place, it kills people," he said. "So making sure that we have the tools and relying on the technology to deliver that enforcement. It's a good use of resources, and it gets us the effective result of slowing down the traffic through our neighbourhoods."