Updated December 8, 2014: This article has been updated with a list of the intersections where traffic signal retiming has been done in 2014 and where it is planned for 2015. See the end of the article.
Original article from December 5, 2014:
Mayor John Tory unveiled a six-point plan to tackle congestion problems in Toronto. The text of his remarks is not yet available on his city web page, but the points were tweeted from his account @johntoryTO:
- Strict Enforcement Of “No Stopping” Regulations On Major Roads
- Enhance Road Closure Reporting
- Launch A Multi-Organizational Traffic Enforcement Team – Deploy 40 additional cameras on arterial roads, Another 80 in 2016
- Accelerate The 2015 Traffic Signal Retiming Program From 250 Signals To 350 Signals
- Establish More Stringent Criteria & Higher Fees For The Closure Of Lanes And Boulevards By Private Development Projects
- Speed up Public Sector Construction Projects By Extending Work Hours And Reducing The Duration Of Construction On Major Roadways.
Mayor Tory will also head up a co-ordination committee to ensure that conflicts between construction projects, service closures (such as subway shutdowns), and major events are avoided.
This all sounds good, in the tub thumping way one might expect of a former radio talk show host for whom the details are always someone else’s problem. What are the likely benefits? Will people actually see an improvement in their travel times?
Noticeable by its absence is any reference to Transit Signal Priority. Reduced congestion will help all road users, including transit, but there are transit-specific improvements that should be addressed.
There are three vital points that must be acknowledged for any plan to address traffic:
- Congestion is a GTHA-wide issue that extends deeply into both Toronto’s suburbs and into the 905 regions beyond. Tinkering with a few streets downtown will not address the vast majority of the problem, but too much of the discussion seems to focus on this small part of the road network.
- Congestion does not affect only a few peak hours a day, but a much broader period including weekends. The trucking industry, for example, is an all day operation affected just as much, if not more, by “off-peak” congestion as it is during the official “rush hours”.
- No congestion-fighting regime is possible without a clear philosophy regarding the use of street space. If every squeaky wheel gets an exception for their business, their attraction, then “congestion fighting” is little more than a quaint slogan.
Toronto must recognize that we cannot “fix” congestion with a few tweaks here, a bit of new technology there. Always there is the sense that we can get “something for nothing”, that our problems will go away without someone making a sacrifice. That’s the sort of dream world that brings us tax-free service improvements and rapid transit construction with mythical pots of other people’s money.
The solutions, such as they may be, to congestion downtown will be very different from those in the suburbs, and a one-size-fits-all approach transplanted between locations will not work.
Enforcing No Stopping Rules
This is a wonderful idea, on paper, but it ignores the fact that many problem locations are occupied by scofflaws of “no parking” regulations. Moreover, “no stopping” tends to be a peak period restriction that is of no benefit in locations with off-peak congestion.
Two problems come immediately to mind. First, the city will need the services of tow trucks capable of hauling away substantial vehicles such as shredding trucks, not just private cars. The city has more than one tow truck at its service. Drivers need to see disappearing vehicles as a regular event just as would-be TTC freeloaders need to see fare inspectors on PoP routes. A few tows as a photo op on one street conveniently near City Hall won’t make a dent in congestion anywhere.
Second, any benefit that might be obtained is nullified if the curb lane contains excepted uses such as taxi stands. If the idea is to regain the capacity of the curb lane, the first thing that must vanish are locations where the lane can be legally blocked. The flip side of this issue is that at some locations, all that is really needed is greater capacity near intersections to ease congestion for turns. The City must trade off competing demands for road space and optimize how it is used.
Clearing the curb lanes also affects designs for cycling because bike lanes need a continuous right-of-way, not one that appears and vanishes as might be convenient for road designers. Tory is silent on how provisions for cycling will fit into the overall priorities for use of road space.
The rules about stopping need to be clearly understood, including by agencies who consider themselves above the law (Canada Post and its subsidiaries). Is the Post Office an agent of the Crown with the right to tie up their horse and cart anywhere they please, or are they a private company?
What is the status the many utility companies who may be working on underground plant, but equally likely may be paying a call on a customer in an adjacent building? They have the right to dig anywhere, but do they have the right to park anywhere?
At midday on December 4, I rode the King car from Liberty Village east, and there was not one block in my travels right through to Parliament Street without vehicles parked in “no parking” areas. Not stopped. Not making a delivery. Parked. The city could make a fortune in fines, but for motorists, this is just a form of civic roulette on the assumption that fines (let alone tows) are so rare as to be a routine cost.
Commercial scofflaws pose an added problem because they treat parking tickets as a business expense, and may even have them cancelled. Quite bluntly, towing, seizing the commercial value of their vehicle (and its time sensitive contents) is the only message they will understand.
This raises the problem of how deliveries can be handled in the older part of the city, and that is a discussion we must all have collectively about how streets are intended to operate. If deliveries and the economic activity they support are so important that they cannot be shifted in location or time, and take precedence over traffic flow, well, don’t complain about the lack of road capacity.
If by “no parking” we really mean “we want this lane kept clear”, then upgrade the ban to “no stopping” with appropriate penalties including towing.
Enhanced Road Closure Reporting
Mayor Tory complains that road and subway shutdowns are poorly co-ordinated complaining about
“the Gardiner closed the same weekend that there are Leafs games and Jays games, and that somebody else decided to close the subway down for track repairs.”
Certainly that’s a sentiment many share, but let’s turn the question around: there are major events at the ACC or the Dome on many weekends of the year. That’s their purpose — to host events as often as possible. Do we simply stop repairing the city’s major infrastructure or restrict this to the few weekends in the year when nothing is happening? Would these venues agree to stay dark just because the TTC needs to test a new signal system? What would Tory say about a construction project that took forever to complete because almost no time was free to actually do work without a conflicting event?
There are many events that we tolerate as part of city life, indeed that we use to promote what a wonderful place Toronto is including parades, road races, film and music festivals/awards, not to mention the Pan Am Games. Should we limit the number and timing of such events? Should we recognize the effects stretching beyond the immediate area of an event with transit service and traffic fouled kilometres away?
This comes back to the need for a policy, a philosophy about the tradeoffs between congestion and other activities the city wishes to support. The idea that public works are an annoyance that must step aside is too simplistic a view of the complex needs of the city.
More Traffic Cameras / Traffic Signal Retiming
Traffic cameras can help to spot events in real time, and to monitor ongoing road behaviour and anticipate problems as they develop. Ideally, a response should be provided quickly both with on-the-spot traffic management and adjustments to signal timings to reflect altered conditions on neighbouring streets. In some cases, there really is no capacity nearby to absorb the effects of disruptions, and the real challenge is to remove them as soon as possible.
Plans for 2015 originally called for 250 intersections to be retimed, and Tory wants this expanded to 350. The intent is to improve overall traffic flow. (See the update at the end of this article.)
There is, however, a fundamental issue with shuffling road capacity by adjusting green time for each type of move at intersections. Some capacity must actually exist in the system for reallocation. A related problem is the degree of co-ordination between intersections, not just the operation of each location as an independent entity. For example, traffic on King Street West is affected by Gardiner-bound trips. These have shifted in location and in time due to construction projects including work on the Gardiner itself and on feeder streets such as Dufferin that was closed for a time for bridge repairs.
Some locations are plagued by intersection blockers — motorists who enter a junction they cannot possibly leave before losing their green signal. That is true gridlock and it is a behavioural problem that all the signs and signals in the world will not cure. Just as parking/stopping bylaws are worthless without enforcement, busy intersections can be jammed for lack of hands on traffic management.
This begs the more general question of the deployment of police as traffic wardens, and whether a separate class of traffic officers is needed both for busy intersections and for direction at construction sites.
Finally, there are basic constraints that some goals — enough time for pedestrian crossings, priority for transit vehicles — can work against an “ideal” pattern for road traffic. Congestion typically is seen as a problem for drivers with spillover effects on transit vehicles, but optimizing the network of signals will not necessarily make it disappear.
Lane Closures for Private Development / Extended Hours for Public Works Projects
With the huge amount of construction downtown, many streets have lost capacity to curb lane staging and delivery areas. The effect can seem unending as construction hoardings simply shift from one site to another.
Reducing these shutdowns may help, but will not eliminate the problem as long as condo and office construction continues in the city. Tory would offer financial incentives for early completion of projects, but any builder will factor these in as a tradeoff — whether the “incentive” is worth the changes in project schedules. The City could face a conflict between higher fees for lane occupancies, and the offsetting effect of incentives. These really need to be one regime, not two programs working at cross-purposes.
That said, it is not just new building construction that can swallow road capacity. Utility work — water, hydro and others — can have severe effects. Tory wants public sector projects to work from 6 am to 11 pm to complete work as quickly as possible. The benefit will vary depending on the type of project as some work — notably major TTC intersection replacements — already runs around the clock.
The Unasked Question: Transit Priority?
Mayor Tory’s announcement was silent on explicit improvements for transit. The Ford era has been marked by antipathy for transit, especially for streetcars, at City Hall and there has been no pressure from the Mayor or Council to improve transit’s lot.
In some quarters, the assumption is that making traffic generally work better is the best way to help transit — the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats — but this is too simplistic. Yes, in general, the more traffic moves, the better that transit service operating in that traffic will be. But there are cases where the needs of transit and other road users conflict, and these must be addressed with transit-specific designs.
The most common form of transit priority signalling in Toronto is the use of altered green times on transit streets. If a streetcar (or in some cases, a bus) is present, green time for its street can be extended to give more time for the vehicle to pull away from a stop. At some locations, a cross-street green may be shortened to reduce delays to transit on the main street. This works, up to a point, but there are many problems.
First, and most importantly, the system has to actually work. Operators routinely complain about (and sharp-eyed riders notice) locations where traffic signals that used to assist transit no longer do so. Sometimes they are fixed, sometimes not. This should be a priority.
A related problem, as discussed earlier, is that giving transit priority may take away capacity for other road users, notably on cross streets. What is optimal for transit may not provide the same benefit, or may even prove annoying for motorists. At some locations, pedestrian crossings block turning autos which, in turn, block transit vehicles. This type of competing demand needs to be worked out on an intersection-by-intersection basis looking at local conditions.
Central Toronto has many locations where there are more traffic signals than transit stops, and those “in between” signals can be a problem. Typically the blocks between signals are short, and yet the priority scheme is always “local” to the block containing a signal. The result is that the time needed to cycle a signal in transit’s favour is much more than the time between a vehicle’s detection and its arrival at the signal. This shows up in particular on Queens Quay.
What is needed is a more sophisticated view of a network of signals, and activation of transit priority based on approach of a transit vehicles from a greater distance so that a “green wave” to the next stop is guaranteed.
This brings up the problem of near side stops. When streetcar is loading passengers, it not only blocks all traffic travelling in the same direction (except where there are loading islands), it also falls out of the timing sequence that is optimized for road traffic. In a worst case situation, a streetcar may “hold” a green cycle while it is loading only to lose it just at the moment it is ready to leave. The situation is even more complex when transit priority is implemented in all directions as it is Broadview and Gerrard (the intersection of the 506 Carlton car with the 504/505 King/Dundas services). At present, there is no way for an operator to “release” a green phase he does not require, nor can she request one on an “I’m almost ready to depart now” basis.
Spadina Avenue brings its own problems because the intersections are so wide and require extra time for pedestrian crossings. This might even be extended if special phasing is added to give a protected crossing to transit islands for disabled riders, a proposal now making its way through the review process.
Almost all of Spadina’s north-south signals have provisions for transit phases, but these are activated only for turns off of Spadina (not for turns onto Spadina), and then only if the switch is activated electrically, not manually (the switching electronics “tell” the signals a car need to make a turn). Many of the TTC’s nominally electrified switches are out of service due to unreliable technology (a project to install a new system has been on the books, but dormant, for years).
A further problem lies at the many intersections where streetcars turn, but not on a scheduled basis, typically for short turns and diversions. For example, in September 2014, the 504 King service diverted around a street closure for the film festival at John Street, but streetcars had to fight their way around left turns eastbound at King & Spadina, and westbound at Queen & Spadina. This delay contributed to congestion not to mention interfering with other transit service. Priority signals for turns are needed in many locations simply to clear transit vehicles around corners as quickly as possible. The technology exists and is in use elsewhere in the city, but more is required.
The very different needs of transit vehicles from general traffic should be well-understood, and this will require micro-level, route by route, block-by-block planning.
The absence of any mention of transit in Mayor Tory’s announcement was disappointing especially for someone who ran on such a strong “transit” platform. It’s not all about big announcements, lines on a map and construction projects — real support for transit will show up in the day-to-day details including better priority for transit on all roads.
While chatting with the TTC CEO Andy Byford at the TTC Riders meeting on December 4, I asked whether he was disappointed that Mayor Tory has not mentioned transit in his announcement. Byford takes the “glass half full” view that this was an omission because the focus of the event was on “congestion”, and that the Mayor’s strong interest in transit will show up in transit priority improvements in the future.
Definitely this is an area to watch whether Mayor Tory is willing to make tradeoffs between moving traffic faster and making transit better.
Updated December 8, 2014:
Here, courtesy of Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services at the City of Toronto, is the list of 2014 and 2015 intersection retiming projects:
219 signals by the end of 2014 on:
– Sheppard Ave (Weston Rd to Port Union Rd)
– Yonge St (Yonge Blvd to Lake Shore Blvd)
– Markham Rd (Steeles Ave to Kingston Rd)
– Islington Ave (Steeles Ave to Lake Shore Blvd)
– O’Connor Dr /Broadview Ave (Sunrise Ave to Danforth Ave)
– Leslie St (Steeles Ave to Eglinton Ave)
Below is a the preliminary list of traffic signals that will be reviewed in 2015. We think the list is pretty solid. However, if there is some unforeseen issue (emergency construction, etc.) the list may change or a corridor may be postponed.
– Dundas St: 49 signals between Keele St and Kingston Rd
– Lake Shore Blvd/Woodbine Ave: 13 signals between Coxwell Ave and O’Connor Dr
– Danforth Ave: 37 signals between Broadview Ave and Birchmount Park Collegiate
– Kipling Ave: 41 signals between Steeles Ave and Lake Shore Blvd
– Steeles Ave: 37 signals between 395 m West of Yonge St and Albion Rd
– McCowan Rd: 28 signals between Steeles Ave and Lawrence Ave
– Bathurst St: 65 signals between Steeles Ave and Fort York Blvd
– Warden Ave: 41 signals between Steeles Ave and Kingston Rd
– Steeles Ave E: 19 signals between Old Kennedy Rd/Silver Star Blvd and Pickering Town Line
– Wellington St: 8 signals from Blue Jays Way to Church
– Front St/Eastern Ave: 14 signals from Blue Jays Way to Trinity St
Good article Steve. The focus on a need for a review of transit priority signal methods was very nice to see. Your comment with regards to in block priority, lost greens, and traffic conflict at intersections all point to a need for a very sophisticated system. While I do not have a huge problem with making autos wait, there are clearly limits to this, if for no other reason than ultimately they will block other transit.
Amen to the need to have a long look, at what is ultimately a very complex issue. I like the idea of using a new AVL system to get live feed on exact location and travel speed and status of transit vehicles as part of the information required to help monitor and interactively tweak the signal timing. There should be (in a truly perfect world) a subtle adjustment of signals for events, accidents, time of day, etc. The people actually controlling the lights would then either be switching between programs, or actually modifying the parameters within each to increase or decrease the relative import (hence length of signal and its relative timing) of each street and direction dynamically, with each day and time of day being slightly different.
I have serious doubts that this is even currently possible, and there does not appear to be the will to revisit the timings with any regularity let alone the type of regularity required. As you say there are no free lunches, or easy fixes. There are some things that really need to be addressed, however, ultimately, I believe that the first focus needs to be on using the streets to move transit better, as this allow it to do more and will also encourage more people to use it, and that will allow traffic as a whole to move better. However, making improvements requires a steady focus, and an ongoing non stop effort, that goes well beyond the symbolic.
I seem to recall that Toronto once had anti-gridlock zones at a few intersections (areas in which “getting caught” on a red light would merit a fat fine).
Steve: Yes, there were intersections with zebra stripes indicating “don’t enter if you can’t cross”, but as with so many other traffic measures, there was little or no enforcement.
Some of these special events are extremely disruptive and need to be banned or severely cut back on. The Gardiner, DVP and Lake Shore should never be closed for events at all because this causes severe traffic congestion and delays the GO bus system severely. Similarly, streetcar routes should never be closed for special events. Yonge, University, Bloor and Danforth should be the designated roads that get closed for large special events since there is a subway under them but a lot of smaller special events need to move to city parks or minor side streets. I have heard a lot of people complaining about disruptive special events and their effect on traffic congestion. The same is true with Gardiner and DVP construction, it should be done at night not on weekends.
Steve: The challenge for work on the expressways is that the work will not fit into an overnight shift and some things simply take multiple days to complete. If they had to be broken up, the elapsed time would be longer because there would be setup and teardown between each night’s work, not to mention returning the road to some sort of useable state for daytime operation.
The next time you are doing home renovations, explain to everyone how you managed to do this during the few hours a day nobody else needs the bathroom, kitchen or their bedroom. It’s the same idea.
Steve, so how did you enjoy the leisurely stroll on the 504 from Liberty Village? Isn’t it just a joy to behold? Traveling at the same or slower speed the horse drawn streetcars of over 100 years ago is so soothing to the soul. Since I haven’t dropped by to comment in awhile I thought I’d give you the western view.
I often have marveled at how the courier, food service, garbage, recycling and the Beer Store manage to schedule their deliveries and/or pickups during the prime commuting hours downtown with impunity. One Beer Store truck regularly stops to do the keg pickup at Peter and King during the morning rush hour. Given the size of the truck towing it away would require a substantial tow truck (not one of the tow trucks driven by the guys that look like scary bikers). Having to pickup the cost of the tow and bailing it out of impound might just get someone’s attention.
Another question, does Canada Post have some sort of unique exemption? The posties are another regular repeat offender. Why can’t we pickup the mail after 7 pm? Is the 2 hour pickup time difference going to make a big difference?
The turn restrictions along King during rush hour are flagrantly ignored. Even the parking officers ignore them. Which begs the question if only emergency vehicles attending to an emergency are permitted to violate the HTA what constitutes a “parking” emergency?
The U-turn restrictions are a farce, just this week I observed a taxi making a U-turn in front of the condo under construction next to the Royal Alex while the paid duty constable stood idly by and watched. The majority of the construction deliveries for that project are done on Pearl St. so why it requires a constable is beyond me! Wouldn’t the officer better serve the city ticketing the “scofflaws” than making sure the fence post he’s leaning against doesn’t get away?
The intersection of Spadina and King during the afternoon rush hour may as well be a Green P lot with the number of cars blocking the intersection.
My on foot commute offers me plenty of opportunity to observe just how passing by-laws and posting signs is without any strenuous enforcement made the political effort a farce.
Oh and do you think I could claim my monthly Metropass payment as a charitable donation since I rarely get to put it to use?
Donkey carts I tell you, that’s the future of travel in Toronto! But don’t tell the Ford’s that they will work in tunnels… Cheers!
I remember that at one time no one thought that traffic in New York could be made to move efficiently. I can’t remember who the mayor was but he towed all illegally parked cars, eliminated double parking and generally pissed off the commercial trucks but got traffic moving.
As you said all parking has to be banned on transit streets for most of the day. For King Street it also needs to be when the theatres are in session. Why are people allowed to park for free then. Taxi stands need to go to side streets. All left turns have to be banned most of the times and many streets need right turn restrictions. I am sorry if this causes drives to be inconvenienced but it helps a lot more than it hurts.
As for bike routes it would appear that the traffic departments assumes that they are “transported” around intersections because their lanes keep disappearing near them.
Yes, in theory you are not supposed to enter any intersection you cannot clear. If all that was done, was a quick advertising blitz as a reminder, along with a substantial enforcement blitz, figure out the worst 20 corners in the city, and have an officer on each writing tickets, then move to the next 20, regularly cycling back. I would be willing to bet, traffic would move a little better, and so would transit. I believe that enforcement is a major part of the problem, a law, that is not enforced at all, is worse than not having it, as people will regard the others as a joke as well.
Blocking intersections is a terribly anti-social activity, cost hundreds of people much more time than the blocker saves. Builds social aggressiveness, and makes the city generally uncivil.
Canada Post is a crown corporation and it is protected by federal laws. Parking tickets cannot be issued to a mail delivery vehicle. This is the same principle as a Canadian Armed Forces truck parking on the street. Police cannot ticket it for Ontario Highway Traffic Act offenses nor municipal offenses. Besides, the supremacy of federal law over provincial ones are enshrined in the British North America Act. This is why the federal government has the power of disallowance.
Parking enforcement officers need to be on the street all the time. They should be able to radio nearby tow truck operators to tow parking offenders right away. There needs to be enough tow trucks standby to make it work. This is not a problem since for the operators, it is better to tow parked cars than wrecked cars on the highway.
I don’t even know how Toronto will host the Pan Am games. We probably need to restrict car use during that time. For example, only odd numbered license plate holders can use the road on a given time. How are we going to show the International Olympic Committee that we can host a future summer game with traffic this bad?
I would prefer that any work that is even vaguely structural in nature, be given its proper time. Concrete, that is being poured in place, has a cure time, that by its very nature is required. There is much labour, that as you are so clear about Steve, requires time to do, and needs to be done continuously. I enjoyed the bathroom analogy, however, I would dare say even an upstairs bathroom that suffered a burst pipe because work had to be rushed for the morning shower would be less traumatic, than having the roadway collapse due to improper cure time, or rushed welding etc.
Imagine driving on Lakeshore, when the concrete that did not cure, around the rebar let go, and the welding that was rushed failed, so you are wearing the truck that was on the road and the roadway above itself. That would certainly ruin your morning commute. Structural fixes to elevated roadways, is not the sort of work that you want force into short windows, where proper work, and inspection becomes nearly impossible.
I certainly enjoyed the riposte Steve, but thought that I would add my two cents, as the idea of driving, riding or walking on or under a structure that I knew was unduly rushed would be something that would make me uncomfortable.
When it was the “Royal Mail” and the trucks were operated by private companies under contract, Richard(?) Bacon in Toronto and Murray Hill in Montreal they were in service for “Her Majesty” and as such were immune to all parking restrictions. After Murray Hill was fire bombed in Montreal during a labour dispute the Pearson Government, I believe got rid of all the private companies and made Canada Post responsible. Now that it is a separate company I do not know if they still have immunity. But, as Michael says, why not pick up after the rush hour.
These officers would be better deployed during rush hours than on residential streets ticketing overnight parked cars that do no harm.
Better yet, change the law and have police authorized tow trucks allowed to tow on sight without waiting for a police officer to issue a ticket and call for truck. Guaranteed results!
It’s surprising that cyclists and pedestrians have been completely absent from the conversation about traffic signal timing. Parts of the city have more active transportation than any other mode, yet nobody has even mentioned it. If we neglect an entire segment of the population trying to get around we’re going to end up with inefficient timings. The models or detectors they use absolutely should include all modes or we’re wasting money on a counter-productive strategy.
Believe it or not, Canada Post cannot change the 5:00pm pickup as it all ties in with letters/packages reaching the sorting terminals here in Toronto, and then meeting the airline schedules at Pearson and then at the arrival sorting depots at the outer destinations. It’s pretty tightly knit operation. I think Brink’s etc etc also have immunity as well as the obvious Fire, ambulance and police.
So $30 million less income in tickets this year…that’s like a 10 cent fare increase…the TPS and Transit Enforcement need to explain what it is that they are going to be doing differently:
– What are the specific numbers of officers being redeployed? What is their distribution over a period of weeks/months, what are their weekly totals of tickets/dollars, this needs to be on their website each month…
– What is the increase in towing that is occurring, 500 vehicles to 550?
– How many tow trucks are in each area of the city over time?
There needs to be specific agreements made with Federal and Provincial officials as well as specific companies to improve things with Canada Post and others (FedEx)…if they do not improve then the city needs to take them to court (federally, or otherwise) or exert other pressure (maybe in the form of public shaming, or detaining ministers in traffic accidentally when they visit the city…)…
Steve: I suspect that if the fine revenue went directly back into the police budget, there would be a sudden realignment of priorities in deployments. Just the same would happen if we outsourced ticketing to a private company that was paid a percentage of the take. Their incentive would be to write tickets and tow vehicles as fast as they could.
I can’t think of anyone else that closes highways in the daytime on weekends for construction. The Ministry of Transportation certainly doesn’t for provincial highways, all construction is done during late evening and at night. Either the express lanes or the collector lanes of the 401 and various ramps are often closed starting around 9pm at night, but the highway is never closed completely, and none of the other highways are completely closed in the daytime either. It is possible that the Gardiner is in such poor condition that weekend closures are needed but I find this hard to believe for the DVP. However Gardiner closures are far worse in terms of traffic congestion than DVP closures because there are so few alternatives to the Gardiner. Maybe we could tolerate closing from 10pm to noon the next day on Friday-Saturday or Saturday-Sunday but closing for the whole day is excessive.
Also the “Ride for Heart” is hugely disruptive and needs to be stopped. I can’t think of any other cities that close major expressways for special events. It is usually mid-afternoon before the DVP and Gardiner reopen on the Sunday this is held and by this point there is severe traffic congestion all over the GTA. Running these sorts of events along the length of Yonge St. seems like an acceptable compromise to me.
The Gardiner, DVP and Lake Shore are heavily used by GO buses, and GO buses are clearly here to stay given that GO ordered several hundred double decker buses recently and is building a new bus terminal underneath a new office building. We need to think about the low hanging fruit for improving traffic congestion.
Are you sure you live in Toronto? Consult Pedestrians and cyclists? Really! It is obvious that in Toronto your importance varies as the second or third power of the amount of space you occupy on the road. Next you’ll want latte stands at intersections so you can have a sip when you wait for the signal to change.
Toronto has for too long been guided(?) by departments which are responsible for traffic, i.e. cars and trucks, and not for the flow of people. Good luck in your fight fo consultation but don’t hold your breath.
The 5:00 p.m. time is the last time that you can put a letter in any mail box and be assured of same day pick up. Canada Post STARTS clearing the boxes at 5:00 p.m. and finishes much later than that. There should be some way clear the boxes on major transit streets last, not first. They should also investigate other vehicles besides small trucks for pick ups on those streets. Some European cities used small 3 wheeled vehicles that could run on the sidewalk.
I don’t know my commercial outfits like Brink’s or any other armoured car companies should be exempt from these laws.
Maybe we should … give the police a percentage of all tickets collected during rush-hour … or give them incentive pay based on how fast the streetcars are moving (I can see it now – streetcar motorcades)
An excellent and comprehensive article Steve and I won’t quibble about any details but in the end the people of this city are going to have to face the fact that there are too many cars on our streets and that situation can only get worse unless measures are taken to discourage automobile use. Rob Ford as wrong. Streets are not about moving cars but about moving people. I suspect that a lot of the westbound evening rush hour traffic on both King and Queen could be eliminated by removing the double left turn traffic lanes at Queensway and Islington and also the left turn lanes at Kipling. In other words, a lot of the traffic clogging King and Queen is traffic bound for Mississauga, Oakville and the other suburbs which is bypassing the Gardiner Expressway.
I’m no expert on how to cut back on the cars in this city but a simple policy which states that this has to be done would be a great start instead of the sniveling that goes on whenever one is perceived as having the audacity and outright arrogance to encroach on the automobile’s domain (e.g. Eglinton Connects).
The Friday edition of 24 Hours reported that John Tory wants to “study changing no stopping rules on major streetcar routes”.
This sounds like a transit-oriented task but unfortunately the article provided no further explanation. Does it mean expanding no stopping restrictions?
Steve: As I understand his announcement, the main issues will be (a) to actually enforce, including by towing, vehicles from no stopping zones, and (b) possibly expanding the length of the peak period when “no stopping” is in effect. As I mentioned there are a few problems. First, many of the problem areas are “no parking”, not “no stopping” areas. If the City is serious about this, they will first have to make stopping and standing illegal in many more places. Second, the problem is just as bad outside of the peak, but all of the focus has been on the few peak hours each day.
I thought that parking control officers are not authorized to handle moving violations, and that one would need a police officer. For example, a parking ticket is void if the driver moves his car before the parking officer can insert the ticket under the windshield wiper.
Steve [who does run this site]: I think the comment was made in the context that it was the PCOs who ignored the turn restrictions.
I agree. Too simplistic because it ignores the concept of Induced Demand. In other words, if car traffic works better, far more car drivers will start driving downtown… and we will be right back where we started.
The solution to congestion is to remove car traffic in favour of more efficient uses of scarce road space. These range from a King Street transit mall to Dutch-standard protected cycling infrastructure to a car-free Yonge Street.
The City of Toronto parking ticket guidelines (the ones made public under howls of protest from those who were exposed as benefiting from loopholes) can be viewed at this link. They do not seem to think the BNA Act prevents ticketing of Canada Post.
The principal issue is that the TPS seems to regard itself as being able to ignore direction from council to recognise and act on a need to prioritise parking enforcement with a view to expediting traffic flow in the city. Even when they do, it is rarely without consequence – instructing the driver to pull around a corner to have the ticket issued happens some times but not always, which closes a lane where it does not.
There are also issues around HTA offences accruing revenue to the province rather than the issuing force/municipality, and the need for a disincentive for drivers to fight a ticket on the off chance the officer does not attend court. In Ireland, paying the ticket is essentially a plea bargain, with higher fines and demerits issued should the driver chance the court route and lose.
Aside from Transit Priority Signaling, I would like to see the coordination of TTC and GO Transit so GO trains are running when there is a weekend closure of the subway lines.
Coordinating street closures on Yonge, Bloor and Danforth whenever there is a planned or unplanned subway shutdown should also seriously be considered. Is it that hard to place variable message boards on parts of Yonge, Bloor, Danforth, the DVP and Gardiner that could subway information and alert drivers to avoid certain streets? We have signs that say “Smog Alert, Take Transit” on the Gardiner…which is hardly a useful option if one is already on the Gardiner…but imagine if we could do better.
I have no idea if Canada Post PAYS tickets but they certainly GET lots of them around where I live. If the City and Province are serious about removing parked cars and keeping all lanes fully open they need to allow parking control officers to issue tickets to cars that now speed away before the ticket can be put on the windshield; ensure that disabled permit holders – who should get free parking in paid areas – do not park in no parking areas. A lane that is blocked by one parked or turning car is virtually useless.
One Thursday evening in late November I was driving home from a TSO concert. (The King car was also involved, as I took advantage of free parking in the east end.) There was a backup approaching Spadina … okay, it’s 10:30 PM, but some drivers really slow down when it hits the construction zone. But the backup went on and on. Only after I had passed the Jameson exit did I see the first informative sign: “TWO LEFT LANES CLOSED AFTER PARKSIDE DRIVE”. The previous info signs had the usual meaningless slogans. It took half an hour to get through the tie-up. Had I taken Lake Shore, it would have taken fifteen minutes or less. I’ve seen similar sign nonsense, such as the programmable sign warning me that the 401 exit to Keele Street was closed … only after I had passed the Black Creek drive exit. Well, thanks for that!
I will also note, in passing, that I am now occasionally working at the Commissioners transfer station, at Commissioners Street and Logan in the Portlands. It’s a 1.5-2 hour trip from Long Branch via TTC, because transit service into the Portlands is so bad. The quickest and most reliable routing is to take 123 or 110 to the Bloor line, go across to Pape station, and south on 72. The Queen shuttle bus/streetcar combo is too unpredictable, even though it is much more direct.
I pondered taking the GO train to Union and the 172 to the site, but my Presto card has apparently failed. I’m not sure that the connection between 172 and the half-hourly GO trains (or worse, to Long Branch, during peak hours, since the express trains don’t stop) is good enough to justify the extra $10 paid round-trip.
The only reason I even bother taking the TTC is that the stop and go drive is brutal, and my car has a manual transmission. I’d rather spend ninety minutes on the TTC reading a book than 45 minutes stuck in traffic, in and out of first gear. But I would rather do neither of these if possible. I have no idea how the Portlands can be developed without major upgrades to transit. If you move in there, and have to travel west of downtown, as I do currently, you are pretty much doomed. The Cherry streetcar will help a bit, but in its current configuration it ends far short of the majority of the Portlands. Hoofing it south across Lake Shore is for the intrepid and hardy.
I loved the announcement today that the 504 will initiate all door loading starting January first. Does that mean that the operators will only allow front door loading for the rest of the year. Do the people in charge not have any idea about what is going on. If the operators did not allow all door loading now the line would be in even worse shape.
I want to see that reduction of boarding time from 20% to 10% of trip time. When that doesn’t happen they will decide that POP and all door loading doesn’t work when it has all ready been in use for a number of years. I rode the King car to the Distillery District on Saturday and it used all door loading at all stops because it was crammed to the doors. A lot of the street cars will use all door loading at busy stops, especially transfer points so they can make better time. It seems that the operators know more than management about how to run the lines.
What is the effect of traffic signal retiming, especially with regard to pedestrians? I presume that for vehicles the relative times of the intersecting streets are adjusted to better reflect the actual traffic flow.
Steve: This depends on the location. One thing that has been happening recently is that pedestrian times have been extended to allow for the slower walking speed of an aging population. However, I have also noticed that some locations have very brief “walking man” phases, the only times (in theory) when pedestrians are supposed to begin their crossing. The intent is to leave fewer stranded midway dodging conflicting traffic, but years of ingrained behaviour (crossing on the flashing hand) are hard to undo.
What does Councillor Ford have to say about the Mayor’s efforts at fighting congestion? I am surprised that the councillor is just laying low and not grabbing headlines.
Steve: Councillor Ford has other problems beside Mayor Tory’s efforts, and in any event I won’t be giving him a platform unless he says something worthy of comment.
We have someone in high office who’s taking action on congestion almost everyday. I see that as a good thing and I’ll give him some time before passing judgement.
Moaz: The Gardiner and DVP are closed overnight twice a year for cleaning and repairs so things can be done as quickly and completely as possible. It is often the case that the highways close Friday night and reopen Saturday night or early Sunday morning because they are able to get that work done so fast.
The current Gardiner construction that has it down to two lanes is because of two major projects and not could not be relegated to overnight construction.
As for the closure of the Gardiner being more disruptive than the DVP because of the lack of alternatives I really have to disagree. There are far more alternatives to using the Gardiner (wide Lake Shore, Queensway+King or Queensway plus Queen, and the Lakeshore West GO line) than there are for the DVP (narrower Bayview, Victoria Park and no GO train)
Moaz: Correct me where I’m wrong but wasn’t the TTC place for all door loading on streetcars supposed to be a little more elaborate than just King St?
Steve: “TTC place”?
Think future, think subway !! Just imagine, there is “King Street line” subway….
Aren’t we investing good money after bad ?
Sigh … TTC plan. I’m seriously wondering if I should give up making posts from my phone … it was not this bad with the previous model.
So yes, was the TTC not planning to introduce all-door loading to the entire streetcar network at the beginning of next year, rather than just the King Streetcar?
Steve: This was one of many proposals in the August 2014 report, but all subject to funding. I think they have figured out how to squeeze out fare inspectors for King within the base budget, and King is the focus of everyone’s attention (especially the Mayor) right now. A wider rollout needs more money, and it also has to compete with other options for service improvements that may be more worthwhile.
The TTC seems pretty confident of this happening. Mr. Byford wrote in his Metro column yesterday:
Steve: Byford may be confident, but comments by TTC board members and by the Mayor clearly indicate a need to rank the importance and benefits of all of the proposed changes, of which PoP is only one. Byford acknowledged this at the recent board meeting.
Steve, would you know why municipalities like Toronto do not share disaggregate data on exact traffic signal timing plans or traffic turning movement counts? I’ve talked to people who work with such data and apparently they have to sign an agreement never to share this with anyone without the City’s permission. Anyone wanting this data would be charged a fee for it.
What could be so sensitive about signal timings and turning movements that it has to be confidential, and why is it treated differently than Open Data?
Steve: I have no idea, and this is an obvious type of data to make freely available.
Mike asked: What could be so sensitive about signal timings and turning movements that it has to be confidential, and why is it treated differently than Open Data?
Could it be liability? There was recently a $2.5 million lawsuit mounted against the city of Mississauga and a firefighter by the family of a woman who was killed in 2011 in a crash with a fire truck that was responding to an emergency. The fire truck had a red light but went forward through the intersection, striking the other vehicle, because the driver (who was acquitted) may have assumed the priority signal would have changed the red to a green.
The city is also suing the company that maintained the priority signaling system.
My daughter who drives an ambulance tells me that all emergency vehicles have to stop at red lights and make sure the cross traffic is stopped before proceeding through the intersection. There is no where in the verdict that says anything about the driver assuming the light would change from red to green. There is contradicting evidence as to the colour of the light so the verdict is basically because there was not proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” I have seen this system work and while it is quick it is not instantaneous as it has to allow vehicles to clear the intersection.
As to the priority system malfunctioning there are many things which could have caused it including a dirty detector that could not “see” the fire truck’s strobe light. Fire Service drivers in Brampton always, as far as I have seen, slow their trucks right down before entering an intersection that has had a quick change from the strobe detection system because it catches motorists off guard and they take a second or two to react properly.
I would hope that this would be immaterial, as I would expect you could still gain access in the case of a lawsuit (especially one against the city). I wonder if it not more a question of people being able to effectively gainsay the planning, or alter their routes in order to take advantage of light timings etc once they were aware, and thus undermine the actual traffic flow patterns for which the signal timings were designed in the last study.
I hope that cities will have access to more information soon, with regards to location and flow of traffic, and especially buses, and will have the technology to have signals dynamically adjust. Of course first and foremost detect and coordinate with transit.