Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Works committee gives gridlock plan the OK
The city’s public works and infrastructure committee gave the plan the go-ahead during its meeting Thursday. The plan focuses on seven areas to cut down congestion around the city, said chairman Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.
“There is a huge level of frustration driving in the city of Toronto, especially driving in the downtown core,” Minnan-Wong said. “(Drivers) want to see council do something about this. Congestion and gridlock is probably the number one issue right now and they want to see action and we’re taking action today.”
According to a 2010 report penned by the Toronto Board of Trade, congestion costs the economy $5 billion annually.
Cities with booming economies and people working are generally more congested, making Toronto a victim of its own success, Minnan-Wong said.
“One of the reasons why Toronto has a congestion problem is that people are going back and forth to work,” he said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to make it better.”
The plan will change timing of traffic signals, increase enforcement on delivery trucks and couriers and launch an awareness campaign to educate drivers.
General manager of transportation services Stephen Buckley said Toronto Police will still be key to any enforcement strategy.
“At the end of the day, we can put all the rules in place that we like, but unless the folks feel there is a stick out there we probably will not get good behaviour,” Buckley said.
The majority of the money spent in the five-year plan, $31.8 million, will be fund upgrades to the city’s traffic operation centre. That “nerve centre” currently focuses on traffic flow on GTA highways, but will now shift to also cover arterial roads and the downtown, Buckley said.
The plan would see 100 new cameras placed at key intersections across the city, roll out updated hardware and software and see more personnel reacting moment-to-moment will help direct traffic in years to come, he said.
“The intent is to get into a situation where we’re more actively managing traffic, so that if we see something like a crash, even on the arterials, we respond,” Buckley said.
The plan is not a “silver bullet” that will solve the city’s traffic woes but it is a measured fix to a number of problems, he said.
Councillor Gord Perks said he supported the plan but it points to a larger conversation council needs to have with Torontonians.
Growth will outstrip road capacity and the focus must shift to greater use of transit, bikes and living closer to work, he said.
“This is a fresh coat of paint, it’s not structural repair,” Perks said. “(We are) moving 50,000 people a year into the city of Toronto. That’s going to overwhelm our ability to solve our traffic problems with a coat of paint.”
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