At one time or another every one of us has experienced being stuck in traffic or hit a construction site that crippled traffic for hours and kept us in our vehicles for long periods of time. Most days when l have to get around the GTA l now have to plan the time management of how long it will take me to get to a meeting or get something done. I have to set time aside in my day or it becomes a complete write off day. It never was this way, as l would jump into my car and move quickly to four or five tasks a day, now l may get to one place and the balance of the day is a complete shutdown.
With all the time, energy and talk focused on transit issues in the recent Toronto election campaign it’s easy to forget that most commuters still arrive at work each day by car. In the city of Toronto 51 per cent do, and in the wider region it’s 68 per cent. In Toronto the average commute of 66 minutes is the norm on the average, we endure the longest round-trip commuting times in any North American city outside of New York.
Many businesses are losing time and money because of gridlock, and most recently a Metrolinx study found that road congestion costs the region 6 billion a year in lost productivity. Road congestion, like that along the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, can affect whether key companies, such as Amazon and Google and other choose to locate in the GTA. If congestion isn’t alleviated, our economy like our goods and people will remain stuck in traffic and growth gets stagnate.
Reducing congestion isn’t about widening and building more roads and highways, its about looking at an overall plan that is well coordinated with the city and the province.
Investing wisely in transit is very important to the overall long-term solutions. Overcrowding and delaying buses, subways and streetcars are driving riders away from the system and back into their cars.
Putting tolls on the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway is another way to reduce congestion in the city of Toronto. Tolls reduce congestion in many ways, they discourage people from driving and raise money for transit projects that attract riders. In 2016 Tory proposed a $2 toll that if it had gone through, $200 million a year for transit projects would have been raised. One of the only smart positions that Mayor John Tory has taken that made a lot of sense so far in his tenure as mayor. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to convince the Wynne government.
The Wynne government killed the plan by refusing to allow the city to charge tolls, reportedly in response to pressure from Liberal MPP’s from 905 ridings who thought it would be an election issue with suburban voters. Doug Ford is on the record today as saying that he is against tolls as are the New Democrats totally against implementing tolls on our highways into the city of Toronto.
Mayor John Tory has a great opportunity with a smaller council to implement some guidelines and structure to help alleviate and control commuter congestion. John Tory should extend work hours on road maintenance and construction projects, so closed lanes could be opened more rapidly, and impose tighter restrictions and higher costs to deter developers from closing off lanes around construction projects.
The city of Toronto is promoting a traffic warden program to prevent blockage at major city intersections, quick clear squads to reduce the time that lanes on the Gardiner Expressway and DVP are blocked after accidents, and a high-profile program to ticket drivers who block lanes in rush hour. The city has also pushed council to put more money into red-light cameras to curb people from blocking intersections. Implementing smart traffic signals that use sensors and cameras to adjust to traffic needs and invest in the re-timing of traffic signals.
Every major city has a problem with traffic congestion. It’s an inevitability when you have so many people in one place. Keeping people and vehicles moving requires a seamless mix of good transit and solid urban coordinated approach by the city with its construction and road closures. Mayor John Tory has this issue with a smaller more workable council to make a mark when it comes to alleviating traffic movement in this city.
When it’s all said and done, l feel that the most effective way to keep traffic in check is to impose price-based tolls.