Time to sound off over gridlock issues

A Town Crier Community Column

Gridlock fills up our roadways. It robs us of our time and economic activity. Endlessly frustrating, everyone seems to be going to the same place at the same time, using the same roads. Highway 401 is useless at the most useful times of day; Midtown streets are clogged and dangerous every morning and evening.

Dealing with gridlock is like dealing with snow — we may never clear the path completely but by managing it properly we can make the path more passable.

There are methods the city can use to take action to reduce traffic gridlock and frankly, it’s ridiculous that this problem continues to fester out of control. City hall needs to get serious about this quality of life and business issue. A Gridlock Task Force comprising politicians, experts and bureaucrats needs to steer effective solutions. An essential part of city hall’s purpose is to facilitate the transport of Torontonians and their business activities around the city.

Transit expansion is perhaps the best measure because it provides a real alternative to driving. Ready for 2020, the Eglinton–Scarborough Crosstown Project will complete 25 kilometres of rapid transit from Black Creek Drive to Scarborough Town Centre, 19 km of which will be underground. It will serve the city east-west like the Yonge Subway does north-south. It will connect with improved GO Train service and other major transit projects the provincial agency Metrolinx is completing over the next decade. But that will take a while. What measures can be done now and for a modest cost?

There are many transportation demand management measures in city hall’s toolbox. The city already uses a computer system to control our traffic. A complicated network of road sensors and cameras across the city feeds traffic data into the master control system, which then makes the traffic signals red or green. In my opinion, it has not been working well for a while — the majority of drivers are getting too many red lights.

The fluidity of traffic depends on managing the different magnitudes of flow in all directions, simultaneously being conscious of what is occurring up and down stream. The largest traffic flow should get the longest green light time. A further complicating factor is the transit priority switches for all our streetcars that further disturb traffic flow by automatically triggering a green light for a streetcar. There must be a way to get the traffic flowing as well as let transit through. Simply, our traffic computer is not being used to its potential. Additionally, the master computer and its software probably need to be updated a bit. Our government needs to fix this.

Other methods to handle gridlock include: controlling road construction better; conducting regular traffic studies; integrating local and regional transit; congestion pricing tolls during hours of peak use; road-space rationing by restricting travel based on license plate number, at certain times and places; time, distance and place road pricing, which charges based on when, where and how much is driven; parking taxes to discourage driving and raise revenue for transportation initiatives; subsidizing transit fares for residents and downtown employees; improving the bicycle path network; and improving the non-driving experience.

Some anti-gridlock measures can be implemented quickly. Some measures need to be discussed with Torontonians and perhaps GTA residents. I believe we need to get on with making key decisions as a community, no matter how contentious the proposal. Please contact your city councillor and mayor to tell them that this is urgent.

About this article:

By: Chris Sellors
Posted: Nov 29 2011 6:33 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto