Mayor John Tory talks congestion hot-spots

On Wednesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory launched the second phase of his plan to lessen congestion throughout the city. This will be a continuation of Tory’s six-point plan made in 2015, which saw the implementation of the zero tolerance policy on illegal parking, among other initiatives.

“Less than a year ago, we introduced a zero tolerance policy for illegal parking during rush hour, improved traffic signal coordination and sped up construction work,” said Tory in a statement. “These measures had a positive impact in the downtown core and these new added measures will improve commute times for residents in every part of the city.”

The eight initiatives presented Wednesday include the development of action plans for 10 congestion ‘hot-spots’ across Toronto, including signal re-timing and the re-engineering roadways and intersections. The hot-spots were determined by measuring traffic speed during peak hours against non-peak hours. The goal is to discover potential traffic solutions by analyzing traffic signal retiming, engineering, and turn-restrictions.

The city is expected to have analyzed the first five intersections by the end of June.


Other elements of “Phase Two” include a comprehensive strategy responding to curb space demands and the implementation of pilot ‘smart’ traffic signal systems. The traffic signals will provide timing plans that adjust in real-time to traffic volumes on the roadway. Toronto has put 350 of these ‘smart’ signals into practice since the 1990s, but the city will now give the system an upgrade with state-of-the-art technologies.

A Traffic Assistance Personnel (TAP) pilot will also be implemented, which would use Toronto police staff to manage traffic in intersections. Steve Johnson, Strategic Communications for the City of Toronto, says that TAP is used in other North American cities such as New York and Chicago, and that it has been successful.

“It is our expectation that our pilot will improve pedestrian safety by reducing vehicle-pedestrian conflicts and improve mobility by encouraging drivers to not ‘block the box’,” he said. “The pilot will run on a regular basis, with intersections being rotated throughout the study period.”

The city will also try to convince commuters to take alternative modes of transportation. Examples include working with employers for bulk purchase of Metropasses, allowing flexible work hours, encouraging telecommuting, or providing bike racks.

Finally, the city has pledged to develop a Road Safety Strategic Plan, which is said to include elements of Vision Zero, a Swedish road safety policy.

“The Road Safety Strategic Plan will embrace the principles of the Vision Zero, but will be a ‘made for Toronto’ solution that will best respond to our local challenges,” Johnson said. “Consultations and stakeholder workshops have been underway for some time, and through these activities we will establish a vision for Toronto that is aspirational and an implementation approach that is achievable.”

The only thing missing from this plan is an emphasis on the relief line, a sorely needed transit system that would motivate more people to use public transportation, thus freeing up the roadways. Let’s hope it gets a “phase” of its own soon!

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