Drivers who endanger the lives of streetcar passengers by zooming past their open doors could soon get an automatic ticket as the province moves to allow automated cameras on the transit vehicles.
The Ministry of Transportation introduced the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act — also known as the “MOMS” Act — on Monday to make Ontario’s roads safer and combat high-risk driving. The bill passed its second reading on Wednesday and is now being reviewed by the standing committee.
If passed, the legislation would amend the Highway Traffic Act to authorize the use of photo evidence to automatically ticket drivers who illegally pass streetcars.
“Sometimes you have to hit people in the pocketbook to shift behaviours,” said Coun. Jaye Robinson, who represents for Ward 15, Don Valley West and is chair of the TTC board.
While passing streetcars when they open their doors at stops is illegal, it’s very difficult to enforce because “there’s no way to secure or to capture the license [plate],” Robinson said.
“All of that’s going to change with the implementation of these cameras.”.
‘It’s really dangerous,’ says transit advocate
For years, Robinson has been calling for automated cameras in streetcars. She put forward a motion in 2019 after a pedestrian who was struck by a dump truck while getting off the 511 Bathurst streetcar.
Between 2014 and 2016, the TTC reported 26 incidents in which passengers were hit by either cars or bikes while entering or leaving a streetcar.
Eight out of 15 of Toronto’s streetcar routes operate alongside cars — meaning passengers have to cross an active lane of traffic to get on and off the streetcar.
“It’s really dangerous,” said Shelagh Pizey-Allen, spokesperson for TTCriders, a public transit advocacy group.
“I know, personally, I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to do a double take and wait as a car drove past open streetcar doors.”
Pizey-Allen also says automated enforcement ensures equitable penalties.
“It’s a really important way to deter people from driving past open streetcar doors that doesn’t rely on policing … that [wouldn’t] potentially racially profile drivers,” she said.
‘We’ll be fast tracking this,’ TTC chair says
The province says the proposed streetcar camera framework will be an opt-in program for municipalities, similar to red light cameras and automated speed enforcement.
While municipalities wait for the bill to pass, Robinson says the TTC is getting ready to implement the cameras as soon as possible.
“We will be fast tracking this,” she said.
“The next two steps are sourcing the appropriate technology, and in a parallel manner, seeking the funding to make it happen.”