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Tory getting tougher on traffic as police kick off rush-hour blitz

Last Updated Sep 18, 2017 at 7:29 pm EDT

Mayor John Tory has unveiled new traffic measures that he says will make it easier for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to get around the city.

Speaking at Nathan Phillips Square on Monday, Tory said the city will be creating two “quick clear squads,” which he hopes to have in place early in the new year.

“These are rapid response teams that will monitor lanes along key downtown corridors and make sure that they’re not blocked. And … a second quick-clear squad that will be dedicated to the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway,” Tory said.

The city is also planning to deploy traffic wardens to congestion hot spots to clear problems quickly.

In 2016, the city launched a traffic warden pilot program using paid-duty officers who were placed at key intersections across the city to help keep traffic moving.

“The pilot project worked. When officers were actively engaged managing vehicles and pedestrians, we found a minimum of 90 per cent reduction in intersection blockage by vehicles and a 70 per cent reduction in intersection blockage by pedestrians,” Tory said.

He said the city will be getting regulatory approval from the province to install traffic wardens at a number of key intersections next year. The wardens won’t be police officers, but rather traffic management officers.

Tory said he’s also working to ban utility trucks from doing non-emergency work during daytime hours.

Starting next month, the city and the traffic app Waze will be sharing their traffic data with each other. Tory also said in a few weeks, the first smart signal traffic light will be installed in the city.

“When they’re installed along a corridor, these lights will be able to talk to each other and actually themselves monitor the traffic flow. And when they process that information of how the traffic is moving, change their own program and change their own timing of the lights,” he said.

Murtaza Haider, an associate professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management who focuses on transit issues, says the information-sharing with Waze will be great for the city to better plan its own traffic measures.

“There’s more opportunities for Waze to share its information with the city,” Haider said. “Then the city engineers can look at travel times and traffic flows and see if they can have more responsive and more adaptive signal control systems, access to and from streets so they can plan a better flow through the system.”

Montreal was the first Canadian city to announce a partnership with Waze in April 2016. Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro claims to be the first city ever to partner with both Waze and another popular travel app, Moovit, in 2014 in preparation for the World Cup.

Tory also said he will request city staff to review a possible increase to fines for traffic-blocking offences.

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The announcement comes as Toronto police kick off a traffic blitz, cracking down on drivers who park illegally during rush hour. The zero-tolerance enforcement campaign launched on Monday and will continue until Friday.

Police say they will be “saturating the downtown core,” ticketing and towing vehicles stopped or parked where they’re not supposed to during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

The blitz is part of Tory’s ongoing crackdown on traffic congestion and gridlock in the downtown core.

“My request to the chief … has been simple. Please conduct these as often as you can because we obviously need to keep tagging and towing if people are going to be engaging in inconsiderate behaviour,” Tory said on Monday.

Since Jan. 1, police have handed out 57,025 parking tickets and towed 11,884 vehicles.

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