Tory's 6-point plan to end Toronto's traffic nightmare

Better enforcement, new technology and higher costs for private developers hoping to close city streets are among some of Mayor Tory's solutions to end Toronto's traffic nightmare.

Many elements will go into effect immediately

"There's a new sheriff in town," said Tory as he explained his strategy to keep vehicles from blocking main roads during rush hour. (CBC)

Mayor John Tory laid out his six-point plan to battle Toronto's infamous traffic gridlock this morning. 

Speaking at the city's traffic management centre in Scarborough, Tory reiterated his earlier assertion that traffic is in a state of "crisis" and is costing the city millions of dollars in economic capital each day. 

According to Statistics Canada, the average Toronto commuter spends 32.8 minutes getting to work, more than any other municipality in the country. 

"I don't want people to think we're not going to have traffic in a big city," Tory said.

"But [Torontonians] are going to see a difference in terms of things like enforcement and steps that are going to be taken to improve technology as fast as it can possibly happen."

How does Tory plan to do it? Here's a round up of the new mayor's strategy.

'No stopping' enforcement

Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, there will be a "zero tolerance" towing policy applied to any drivers who've blocked major routes during rush hours.

Tory said that parking enforcement officers will be reassigned from residential areas to major thoroughfares and intersections during peak traffic periods.

"You will be towed. If I have to chip in and drive a tow truck myself, you will be towed," he joked. 

Tory also hopes the stepped-up enforcement will help the city collect on the nearly $4-million dollars in unpaid parking tickets given to drivers with out-of-province plates each year. 

Better road closure reporting

Tory will personally chair the road closures coordination committee for the next six months in an effort to improve how closures are reported to the city and to residents.

The new mayor cited an autumn weekend when the Gardiner Expressway was closed for routine maintenance despite two Blue Jays games, a Toronto FC match and a Maple Leafs game as an example of communication breakdown. 

Tory said he asked the committee during his transitional period to explain how that decision was made.

"There wasn't really an answer," he lamented. 

Interestingly, Tory also revealed that impending road closures are currently reported to city hall via fax, which he said was unacceptable.

"We're going to find ways to get into the 21st century, or maybe the 20th century here," he said laughingly. 

Beefed-up traffic enforcement team

Tory said the city wants to bring together members of the Toronto police traffic unit, parking enforcement and Transportation Services to develop a more comprehensive plan to bust problem drivers.

Part of this strategy will including installing 40 new traffic cameras along major routes to improve communication times between service, with another 80 cameras set for installation in 2016. 

Tory is also negotiating a deal with several Toronto media organizations with traffic planes and helicopters to install additional cameras that would feed footage directly to the traffic management centre. Ostensibly, this would ensure that accidents, blockages or problems are dealt with more quickly. 

Increased traffic signal re-timing

Re-timing traffic signals has already provided some relief for drivers in various areas of the city. Currently, there are 250 traffic lights slated for re-timing in 2015.

Tory said this number will be increased to 350 over the course of 2015. 

Similarly, the city will launch a pilot project to test the next generation of smart traffic signal technology at 20 locations throughout Toronto. Tory did not specify the intersections at which the pilot project will be tested.

Clamp down on private construction

Construction is the bane of existence for most drivers in Toronto and many of the lane closures that haunt commuters are in fact caused by private developers. 

Tory took the opportunity this morning to apologize to residents for the "insensitive and wrongheaded way we approach construction on our city streets."

To deal with extended closures at the hands of developers, Tory said he will "attach a real price" to shut downs.

Meanwhile, Transportation Services will prepare a report, to be submitted to the public works and infrastructure committee in February, as to how the number of road closures due to private construction projects can be reduced. 

Speed up public construction

Tory said that beginning immediately, public construction projects will operate under extended work hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. in an effort to speed up completion. 

In addition, cost premiums for early completion will be offered up "where it is financially feasible."


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