Published on October 8th, 2014 | by Faye Lyons
[Interview] Toronto’s Top Mayoral Candidates Discuss Their Transportation Priorities
CAA South Central Ontario sat down with the top three Toronto Mayoral candidates to discuss their transportation priorities. It was clear that there was a consensus among the three candidates, that we have reached a tipping point in getting around the city. All road users are frustrated with congestion issues across the city, and the ongoing delay in building transit in Canada’s largest city. With Toronto residents electing a new Mayor later this month, and with transit and transportation issues being front and centre for most, all three candidates have made transportation a pivotal part of their respective campaign platforms. In fact, among the issues we talked about, there was common ground in some areas, including unanimous support for maintaining the Gardiner as an expressway that connects to the Don Valley Parkway and are opposed to options that would require additional travel time.
We had an opportunity to meet one-on-one with Olivia Chow, Doug Ford and John Tory on a variety of issues. Below, are excerpts of what they told us during their interviews.
Question 1: Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) encompasses the technology that synchronizes traffic lights, overhead message boards on the highway and cameras at intersections. This technology is designed to improve traffic, the environment and safety. How would you improve ITS in the city and how would you make it a priority?
Ms. Chow suggests charging developers a fee to close a lane for construction, and this charge would increase based on length of the disruption. “We need to give financial incentives for developers to quickly open up the lane again finish their construction faster so that there is less gridlock… We can then get some of that funding into improving or smarten, make our traffic signals, the entire system a lot smarter.”
“We know that it is proven to work; the question is implementation because of the cost, so we need more money to upgrade the signals and the system so that it is all across the city which is not what it is now. “
Mr. Ford supports the coordination of traffic lights noting that the previous council dedicated $10 million dollars to coordinate 1,000 traffic lights.
“The last council the mayor put forward money for another 500 traffic lights being coordinated and I believe we don’t stop until we do right across the entire City. Our studies show that there is 15-20 percent efficiencies found on traffic if you coordinate all the lights.”
Mr. Tory is concerned about the length of time it will take to implement a greater signal synchronization program because this program is scheduled to be completed in budgets through to 2018-2019.
“My number one priority is traffic and transportation…these measures should be accelerated so that you can take the technology some of it ironically developed right here in Toronto and used elsewhere and actually implement faster. And these are not gigantic budgetary sums; they are amounts of money that we can find if we thought this was a priority.”
Question 2: Toronto has one of the highest rates of development in the world and most recently council approved an additional $21 billion in new development mostly in the downtown core. What current and interim transportation solutions would you propose to address the increase in Toronto’s population?
… “My plan has four elements one of which I talked about electrifying GO, another element is the immediate improvement of the bus service increase capacity by 10 percent, that’s important so that people can get to where they want to go immediately and we have to build the light rail because we have done the studies. It is construction ready. Let’s just start the construction now……”
“And lastly, a lot of those developments are in the downtown core. We absolutely need to build the Yonge subway relief line because that subway relief line is TTC’s top priority, and all the transit experts say that we need to move ahead and do it and it would alleviate the congestion that is on the Yonge subway and the Bloor-Danforth subway. So, we must act now.”
“I focus on Lean Six Sigma methodologies. Driving efficiencies. If I had a dollar for every time I saw an empty streetcar go by with no passengers? We would be paying off the debt right now. What we should do is re-allocate that money. If there are empty streetcars going along one area and another area is full capacity you drive the funds over to where you need it. But not only that, I am not a believer in streetcars, they’re a waste of time. They are the slowest mode of transportation. They are antiquated…. You have articulated buses that can move in and out of traffic. You get stuck behind a streetcar going downtown on Dundas, on King on Queen. You’re ticked off by the time you go into work…”
“And you start building subways, and you continue building subways, and you don’t take the boring machines out of the ground and you do it incrementally. What ever the money we have to use, you continue boring the holes and you can put the forming in later. But continue to bore the holes.”
“When I saw them (council) declare … that they had approved I think 750 storeys of new development in one council meeting, the last one of the term. I was at the one hand heartened by that cause I thought that that is great that people still want to invest in Toronto and I think we should be proud of that because the city is booming but I said that I was troubled by the fact that I was quite certain that they had not asked and answered the questions, what about roads? What about transit? What about schools? What about parks? What about hydro? What about sewers? What about libraries?
I am sure that someone at some point in the long process leading to those approvals asked those questions but I don’t think that they insisted on the answers…. There is 85,000 people coming here every year but I think we have start being much more disciplined about saying you answer those questions when you’re having these developments in front of you not five or ten years later.”
Question 3: Can you name your priorities/initiatives to address road safety, cycle safety and pedestrian safety?
“I will start with pedestrian because whether we drive, or bike or take public transit we still walk so everyone is a pedestrian really… In my term, in the next four years as Mayor, I will make all 100 most dangerous intersections safer for everyone.”
“Secondly for bikes, drivers and cyclists need predictability. …You need to know where the lane is that’s why having cycling lanes and bike boulevards makes a difference. Bike boulevards are mostly in residential streets and it doesn’t slow down traffic, it makes cycling safer for people.” Ms. Chow suggests that more bike lanes offer a clear delineation for cyclists and drivers. “It just avoids uncertainty and it also provides safety for cyclists. So that would get more cyclists out on the road.”
And lastly for drivers, Ms. Chow suggests that the intersections be regulated through smart technology and the synchronization of traffic lights. “Then it’s less frustrating. If you are less frustrated you know you pay more attention. You are less distracted.”
Mr. Ford would like to investigate installing flashing signal lights similar to crosswalks for every school zone to improve safety. “What price can you put on saving a human being, a young kids life? You can’t.” He would like to do pilot projects throughout the city.
Mr. Ford supports separated bike lanes as opposed to non-separated bike lanes and believes in building bike paths. “We believe in building bike paths. A hundred kilometres. And we are doing that.”
Mr. Ford suggests more enforcement to improve road safety. He is not in favor of speed bumps and suggests a speed hump is installed at a cost between $6,000 and $10,000 and the community will later request that it be removed. Mr. Ford also believes that unwarranted stop signs and traffic lights are also a problem. He believes that city council should follow City staff recommendations on the installation of traffic lights and stop signs.
“I honestly believe that the single best thing that you can do that will help a lot with road safety and I think will help with pedestrian safety is to get the traffic on the major arteries moving better….. And I think as you see more and more people for example walking on the street listening to music and not being as aware of what is going on around them. This is dangerous and I think we have to educate people as we have done with drinking and driving”
Mr. Tory also believes that a significant portion of the investments should be made in an effective network of separated bike lanes on streets that are appropriate for that use. He suggests that this would improve safety.
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