Tory aims to tackle traffic. It won’t be easy

Item date: 
November 7, 2014
Item context: 

In his umpteenth column on Toronto traffic, columnist Marcus Gee writes, "The big fixes – such as road tolls, road pricing, sharply higher parking rates or all-day parking bans on major streets – are bound to be unpopular with motorists or merchants."   Mayor-elect John Tory consistently ruled out these options during his campaign -- and at the Transport Futures Mayoral Debate in June.  The Transport Futures Road Pricing and Parking Workshop will look at how pilot projects can decrease the chances of politics trumping the need to reduce congestion, emissions and health impacts.

By MARCUS GEE

John Tory says that fighting traffic congestion will be an urgent priority when he takes office next month. He wants to crack down on those inconsiderate drivers who stop in curb lanes during rush hour. He wants to cut the number of lanes blocked off for months on end when buildings are going up. He promises to chair a construction co-ordination committee that will aim to reduce traffic disruption from construction projects...

Drivers will climb onto the roofs of their cars and cheer if Mr. Tory can make traffic move a bit more smoothly.

That, unfortunately, is easier said than done. Just about all big, successful cities have bad traffic...

If traffic has worsened in Toronto, it is partly because the city is booming... (and) the city is spending close to a billion dollars a year on fixing its aging infrastructure. Replacing streetcar tracks, repairing old sewer pipes, putting in new gas lines and, of course, resurfacing the roads themselves – all these things can disrupt traffic...  

Managing the city’s growth while keeping traffic moving is a complex problem. Mr. Tory is far from the first to try to tackle it. Many of his ideas have been tried or are about to be tried...

But even with a new, more competent mayor fully engaged in the problem, any improvements that drivers see are bound to be marginal at best. Toronto has a lot of cars and a limited amount of road space. Improving the transit system is going to take time and money. The big fixes – such as road tolls, road pricing, sharply higher parking rates or all-day parking bans on major streets – are bound to be unpopular with motorists or merchants.

For all his passion on the issue, Mr. Tory has shown no sign he is contemplating the sweeping measures that might make a real difference. 

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