Traffic and Congestion

Vision Zero Update

2017 is shaping up to be a banner year for Toronto’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plan.

Since 2015, as Chair of Public Works & Infrastructure, I’ve championed the creation of a comprehensive strategy to improve safety on our roads. Last summer, City Council unanimously adopted Toronto’s Road Safety Plan and since then, we’ve been implementing safety improvements on streets and at intersections across the entire city.

In the coming months, we’re focusing on improving safety for seniors and children, our most vulnerable road users.

Since the winter, city crews have been fast-tracking the creation of 12 Seniors Safety Zones across Toronto. These zones involve increasing walk times at traffic signals, enhancing pedestrian markings and improving signage and street lighting.

As we head into summer, our next big push is School Safety Zones, which we’re aiming to have in place for September at a number of schools to coincide with back-to-school and the shorter days of the fall season when there are typically increased rates of collisions.

We’ve also got many more safety initiatives lined up for the remainder of 2017, including:

  • Physical engineering improvements at 16 locations
  • Accessible pedestrian signal installations at 20 additional locations
  • Increased pedestrian walk times at 42 additional locations
  • Road safety audits to be conducted at 14 locations
  • Expansion of the permanent Watch Your Speed signs at 20 additional schools

Last month, I was also pleased to host Toronto’s second annual Vision Zero Summit, which brought together more than 20 stakeholder groups and road safety experts to discuss progress on the Road Safety Plan and our next steps as a city. It’s always a great discussion, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s Summit!

To learn more about the safety improvements planned for 2017, check out our website toronto.ca/VisionZeroTO.

Improving Residential Infill Construction Sites

In my first term, based on feedback from residents, I moved several motions urging the city to improve its response to residential infill construction sites and ensure that our neighbourhoods are protected and respected when undergoing development.

 

In response, last year city staff developed a multi-faceted strategy to minimize the negative impacts of residential infill construction and streamline how the city deals with problem properties.

Since the approval of this strategy, we’ve made significant headway in encouraging good construction practices and ensuring proper enforcement, including:

  • A new introductory inspection to clarify the city’s expectations with the builder
  • A policy for expanding the use of tickets as an enforcement tool
  • Enhanced training for building inspectors

Toronto Building is also in the midst of developing requirements for a new and improved notice that permit holders will be required to post on site.

Be sure to check out toronto.ca/infill, which provides resources for residents, including a Good Neighbour Guide outlining requirements, best practices and communication tips to help everyone involved move smoothly through the project.

Building the Downtown Relief Line

As you may know, last month City Council voted to move ahead with planning and design work on the Downtown Relief Line.

Throughout my two terms in office, I’ve consistently said that the Relief Line has to be our top transit priority. Each and every day I hear from residents frustrated by the overcrowding and delays on the Yonge line. As a transit user, I’ve also experienced these problems first-hand.

The Downtown Relief Line has now been divided into two projects: the Relief Line South (from Pape Station south to Queen St) and the Relief Line North (from Pape Station to Eglinton or Sheppard Ave).

While planning on the Relief Line to date has focused on the southern piece, I’m pleased to share that the city is now kick-starting planning work on the Relief Line North and will deliver an initial business case in early 2018.

The northern extension of the Relief Line will be a huge win for Ward 25ers who sometimes have to wait for two or three trains before they can get on and get where they need to go. To move this planning forward, I tabled a motion at Executive Committee asking staff to develop a robust community consultation plan, consider naming the new transit line the Don Mills line and look at building the Relief Line North up to the Sheppard line to maximize transit connectivity.

But in the meantime, to deal with the current capacity problems on the Yonge Line, I’ve pushed TTC staff hard on what efforts are underway to improve service and reliability, including the status of the Automatic Train Control (ATC) project. This project involves updating the signalling system so that the speed of and separation between trains will be controlled automatically.

ATC is expected to increase capacity on the Yonge line by 25% by cutting train headways from 2.5 to 2 minutes. In other words, ATC will improve train capacity and shorten wait times.

However, implementation of ATC has been slow going and over budget. That’s why I also moved a motionrequesting that the TTC provide quarterly updates to the Committee on the status of the ATC implementation project and consider all options for acceleration.

Faster, better and more reliable TTC service can’t come soon enough.

Getting Toronto Moving : An Update on Phase 2 of the Congestion Management Plan

Earlier this year, I announced Phase 2 of Toronto’s Congestion Management Plan, and I’m pleased to let you know that the city is taking action this fall to combat gridlock and congestion.

Thanks to Big Data, or vehicular probe data, which I helped bring forward earlier this term, city staff have identified the 10 most congested intersections or “hot spots” across the city.

Transportation staff are currently implementing targeted solutions – from signal retiming to increasing “green time” at traffic lights to capital improvements – in order to improve traffic flow at each of the 10 locations.

You can read about the actions being taken at each intersection as well as the timelines for completion here.

Improvements to Construction Staging

Battling congestion and gridlock has been one of my top priorities during my two terms in office.

Every single day, I hear from residents frustrated by private developers who stage construction projects on our streets, resulting in prolonged lane closures and congestion.

As Chair of Public Works & Infrastructure, earlier this term I fought tooth and nail to clamp down on private construction by increasing fees for street occupation. As a result, fees for developers have now jumped from $5.77 per square metre per month to a maximum of $105.41 per square metre per month. Unfortunately, private developers simply aren’t getting the message.

At this month’s meeting of City Council, there were three items on the agenda related to construction areas and lane closures in the downtown core. The proposed closures would have shut down traffic lanes for two to three years, causing real pinchpoints in our road network and significant congestion.

I voted with my Council colleagues to reject these wholesale closures and directed staff and the developers to consider other options. These alternatives might include further increasing street occupation fees, using side streets and laneways or working within the footprint of the development.

I look forward to reviewing the revised proposals at next month’s City Council meeting.

The bottom line is that the status quo isn’t working – it’s time to start focusing on the public interest instead of catering to private construction.

Planning in the Midtown Neighbourhood

Midtown in Focus is an innovative vision for the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood and includes planning principles to improve parks, open space and the streetscape.

City Council approved Midtown in Focus with broad community support in 2014 following an extensive public consultation process. The plan aims to increase green space in the Yonge-Eglinton area and is a key component of the area’s livability moving forward.

Unfortunately, since the passing of the Midtown in Focus plan, it has been appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. The first pre-hearing for this appeal will be held on July 12.

If you’re interested in getting involved in fighting this appeal, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

 Brainstorming with residents, city staff and neighbouring Councillor Christin Carmichael Greb at the latest Midtown Planning Group meeting.

Brainstorming with residents, city staff and neighbouring Councillor Christin Carmichael Greb at the latest Midtown Planning Group meeting.

Transportation Services Presents INview

T.O. INview, short for infrastructure viewer, is a map that provides information about current capital construction activities across the city.

The map identifies the location and other details of planned capital construction projects to be carried out by the city, utility companies and other agencies, including Metrolinx and the TTC, every year.

It’s important to note that this website only shows planned capital work, not emergency or short-term projects. For that information, visit the city’s road restrictions website.

T.O. INview not only provides details about individual projects but also allows the city to improve the coordination of overlapping projects, which is more cost-efficient and reduces the inconveniences associated with construction activities for residents.

There’s also a handy user guide that can help you navigate the website’s features and make the most of this innovative technology.

To access the T.O. INview website, please click here.

Metrolinx Crosstown Update

As you know, Metrolinx launched a regional transportation plan – “The Big Move” – in September 2008. One of the first projects in this plan was the Eglinton Crosstown.

The Crosstown, a light rail transit line (LRT), will run across Eglinton Avenue between Mount Dennis (Weston Road) and Kennedy Station – a 19km corridor that includes a 10km portion undergound between Keele Street and Laird Drive.

Construction is well underway and is expected to be completed in September 2021.

Currently, the two Tunnel Boring Machines – named Don and Humber – are respectively just west and east of Bayview Avenue.

Station names were recently approved and finalized. The stops in our area include:

  • Eglinton Station – Yonge & Eglinton
  • Mt. Pleasant Station – Mt. Pleasant & Eglinton
  • Leaside Station – Bayview & Eglinton
  • Laird Station – Laird & Eglinton
  • Sunnybrook Park Stop – Leslie & Eglinton
  • Science Centre Station – Don Mills & Eglinton

Metrolinx is hosting a series of public meetings beginning in the spring to share detailed designs and an updated construction schedule from the contractor – stay informed by visiting this link or by calling the Crosstown East’s office at 416-482-7411.

Phase 2 of Toronto’s Congestion Management Plan

 As Chair of Public Works, I was pleased to announce Phase 2 of the city’s Congestion Management Plan with Mayor Tory.

As Chair of Public Works, I was pleased to announce Phase 2 of the city’s Congestion Management Plan with Mayor Tory.

There’s no doubt that traffic is top of mind for Toronto residents. Congestion costs our city almost $11 billion-a-year in lost productivity.

Getting Torontonians moving was one of my top priorities in the first year of Council’s new term and it remains so going forward.

For that reason, I was pleased to help announce the next phase of the city’s congestion management strategy earlier this month.

In 2015, we launched a number of initiatives to combat gridlock, including:

  • A zero tolerance policy on illegal parking during rush hour on key corridors
  • Improved traffic signal coordination
  • Enhanced road closure reporting
  • Increased fees for road closures related to private development

On this last initiative, I led the charge last spring to clamp down on private construction by increasing fees for street occupation. Those fees have now increased from $5.77 per square metre per month to between $26.35 and $105.41 per square metre per month.

This year the city is building on 2015’s successes and mobilizing state-of-the-art technology and innovation to combat gridlock. This second phase involves:

  • Developing a comprehensive curbside management strategy to better manage competing demands on our curb space
  • Upgrading the city’s “smart” traffic signal system so that it can better adapt to real-time traffic volumes
  • Developing and implementing action plans for 10 congestion ‘hot-spots’ across Toronto
  • Expanding the existing Smart Commute program, which helps employers encourage different commuting options for their staff

An essential component of the 2016 plan involves the use of Big Data, or vehicular probe data, which I helped bring forward last winter.

You can read my motion here.

Big Data has enabled staff to identify the city’s most congested intersections and corridors and will aid in the development – and implementation – of context-specific, evidence-based action plans to improve traffic flow.

You can read more about 2016’s congestion management initiatives here.

For an update on the city’s long-term Congestion Management Plan, click here.

City-Wide Transit Update

The first month of 2016 saw a number of exciting developments on the transit front!

The City of Toronto and TTC, together with Metrolinx and GoTransit, are embracing a network-based approach to transit, rather than considering transit initiatives as individual projects. The goal is to make Toronto’s residents and neighbourhoods more interconnected.

The newly revised SmartTrack plan sees the western portion of the plan – from Mount Dennis station to the airport – modified from heavy rail to light rail. Staff advise that an LRT (light rail transit) would be more feasible, cost effective and have fewer community impacts.

A study of SmartTrack ridership forecasts, conducted by the University of Toronto, also estimated that frequent service on the transit line could reduce congestion on the Yonge subway line by 17% – that’s a significant reduction!

City staff will provide an update on SmartTrack’s western corridor to Executive Committee in March 2016.

In January we also got a look at a revised plan for the Scarborough subway. City Planning has advised that reducing the extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway from three stops to one stop and building a 17-stop, 12 kilometre LRT along Eglinton East – an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown – would better support Scarborough residents’ regional and local needs than the original plan approved by Council in 2013.

City Planning will report to Executive Committee in March 2016 on the results of public consultations and progress on this updated plan.

In February and March, the city and Metrolinx are hosting a series of public meetings for residents to learn more about integrated transit planning.

Click here for the dates and locations of these upcoming public consultations.

I encourage you to attend and share your feedback on our city’s updated transit plans!

Intensification in the Yonge & Eglinton Community

Toronto is experiencing unprecedented growth. While many neighbourhoods are feeling the pinch, few are experiencing levels of growth and change like the Yonge-Eglinton area. This growth has direct impacts on our built form and infrastructure – from transit to schools to stormwater management.

That’s why, in July 2015, I asked the Chief Planner to report on planning tools that can be used to help manage intensification pressure in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood.

The goal of the study, the Yonge and Eglinton Growth, Built Form and Infrastructure Review, is to develop an evidence-based planning approach that can better inform the development review process and policy-making moving forward.

From my perspective, any and all growth needs to be effectively managed to ensure the continued liveability of our community. These planning tools will guide the vision, form and fit of future developments with a focus on the context-specific character of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood.

Building on the recently City Council-approved Midtown in Focus, a plan focusing on public realm improvements to streets, buildings and open spaces, the Yonge and Eglinton Review is really four plans in one. Using recent growth analyses, the Review examines built form, cultural heritage, community infrastructure and transportation and municipal services.

A key component of the review involves a detailed analysis of the performance and capacity of city infrastructure, including transportation networks, water, wastewater and energy. The final report will outline what infrastructural improvements would be needed based on projected growth estimates.

Expected in Spring 2016, the report will enhance the development review process by providing hard data on the multiple impacts of intensification in Yonge-Eglinton.

The bottom line is that we want to maintain the unique feel of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood and the characteristics that make it a vibrant community.

For updates on the Yonge and Eglinton Growth, Built Form and Infrastructure Review, click here.

Traffic Calming Options Manual

As Chair of Public Works, I’m committed to making our roads safer for all users –  motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.

That’s why, earlier this year, I moved a motion asking for a comprehensive Road Safety Plan for Toronto to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries on our roads.

Further, at this month’s Public Works and Infrastructure meeting, I requested that an easy-to-use Traffic Calming Options Manual be developed as part of the Road Safety Plan.

The manual will outline all of the different traffic calming options and their impacts, costs and effectiveness. The goal is to make the information about traffic calming alternatives transparent and accessible to everyone – whether you’re a city official, traffic expert or resident.

You can read my motion here.

A draft of the Road Safety Plan will be coming to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in 2016.

Traffic Jam Hackathon

 With Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services, and Myles Currie, Director of the Traffic Management Centre

With Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services, and Myles Currie, Director of the Traffic Management Centre

Congestion is an $11 billion-a-year problem in Toronto and it’s my key priority as Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee.

Earlier this year, I directed city transportation staff to explore how we can use big data to understand, evaluate and reduce congestion and gridlock.

Big data focuses on using advanced analytics to mine and make use of massive amounts of information from different sources, such as GPS locational data, traffic cameras as well as Bluetooth and wifi information – to name a few.

In October 2015, I helped kick off the city’s first ever Hackathon. Cosponsored by Evergreen CityWorks, the event brought together more than 150 talented individuals from across disciplinary lines and gave them 48 hours to jump start solutions to gridlock using a variety of different data sources.

Click here for more information about the Hackathon and the winning ideas.

Increasing Fees in Construction Contracts

I chaired the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in summer 2015 where we approved a pilot to apply acceleration and delay costs in construction contracts.

The goal is to reduce congestion by speeding up construction on city roads, particularly high-traffic corridors.

The pilot has a two-pronged approach:

  • Financial penalties for construction delays
  • An innovative tendering process that considers both overall cost and completion time

Other jurisdictions, including Ottawa and York Region, have had success in applying acceleration and delay costs to high-priority construction projects.

City staff will report back on the pilot to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in 2017.

Click here for more information.

Gardiner East Update

The future of the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway is a once in a lifetime decision that will shape the future direction of our city.

The environmental assessment team recently refined the options for the 2.4km stretch between Jarvis and Logan to three:

  • Remove the expressway and replace it with an eight lane boulevard;
  • Maintain the expressway in its current form; or
  • A hybrid approach that would keep the expressway linkage between the Gardiner and DVP.

Public consultations are a critical part of the decision making process and are now underway.

It’s a complicated decision. We have to balance travel time impacts, unlocking the incredible opportunities on the waterfront and financial cost. As the Chair of Public Works, my priority is to make the right decision for the city. 

To get involved or to learn more about the issues, please head to www.gardinereast.ca.

Following the public consultations, city staff will prepare a report with a recommended option for May’s Public Works Committee meeting and City Council will make a final decision in June.

2014 Traffic Signal Synchronizations – Great Results

Cutting congestion and gridlock remains my number one priority as Chair of Public Works.

That’s why I’m pleased to share the results of the city’s 2014 Traffic Signal Coordination Program.

In 2014, the city synchronized 224 traffic signals on 7 major corridors, including Yonge, Leslie and Sheppard.

The results were impressive, including:

  • A 10% decrease in overall vehicle delay;
  • A 4.5% decrease in fuel consumption (equivalent to the CO2 emissions from 693 homes’ electricity use for one year!); and,
  • A 4.6% decrease in emissions.

Overall, the 2014 work resulted in an estimated annual savings of nearly $17 million in reduced congestion-related costs.

Signal synchronisations also offer a great return on investment. The benefit-cost ratio of the 7 major corridors retimed in 2014 was 63 to 1!

Better yet, there’s more in store for 2015. 343 synchronizations on 11 major corridors are scheduled this year, bringing the four year synchronization total to nearly 1,000 since the program began in 2012.

Chair, Public Works & Infrastructure Committee

 Touring our new and improved Traffic Operations Centre with the General Manager of Transportation Services Stephen Buckley

Touring our new and improved Traffic Operations Centre with the General Manager of Transportation Services Stephen Buckley

I’m honoured to serve as Chair of the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee, one of the city’s seven Standing Committees.

I asked for a substantive portfolio and Public Works is it

With a budget of more than $2 billion, Public Works oversees four of the city’s key divisions – Transportation Services, Toronto Water, Solid Waste Management and Engineering & Construction Services. It’s responsible for an incredibly diverse array of issues: congestion, gridlock, drinking water, storm sewers, roads, bridges, sidewalks, highways, speed limits, bike lanes, bike safety, waste collection, recycling and street furniture, to name a few!

Traffic, gridlock and congestion were front and centre during the campaign – in Ward 25 and across the city – and, as I told the Toronto Sun, “it’s my number one priority.”

Last week, I sat down with Stephen Buckley, the General Manager of Transportation Services, to discuss what we can do right now to improve congestion and to tour our new and improved Traffic Operations Centre.

Briefings with other key staff and divisional leads are already scheduled – it’s a big job and I can’t wait to get to work!

Construction Coordination Update

We’re at the tail end of an unprecedented construction season.

The increased construction activity signals much needed and long overdue investment in our city’s basic infrastructure but also brings congestion and disruption.

That’s why the city is redoubling its construction coordination efforts.

I recently met with the Director of the city’s Major Capital Infrastructure Coordination (MCIC) group – the lead on construction coordination.

MCIC’s job is to organize and connect key stakeholders from city divisions (Water, Transportation, TTC), third-party utility and telecommunication companies (Toronto Hydro, Enbridge, Rogers, Bell) as well as private developers, share information and identify opportunities to bundle and streamline work.

MCIC’s role does not end when construction starts. Once shovels are in the ground, MCIC is constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce congestion and disruption, including accelerating or decelerating construction activity or implementing short term signal changes on surrounding streets, among other things.

Of course, there is always room for improvement – I see it day in and day out.

Please let me know if you see an example of poor construction coordination by sending me an email or calling my office. Each and every example can help us improve the city’s response going forward!

Improving Traffic and Pedestrian Safety

Many of you have written or spoken to me about traffic and pedestrian safety issues in each and every corner of the ward.

While there are no quick fixes, four years of hard work have taught me that broad community engagement is integral to each and every effort to improve safety on our streets and sidewalks.

The key is bringing neighbourhoods together around the same table to identify problems and brainstorm solutions. Effective, long term solutions are built on broad, neighbourhood-wide consensus.

There’s a wide range of options and tools available to neighbourhoods to improve safety – improved signage, new or refreshed pavement markings, all way stops and flashing beacons, to name a few – and city staff can walk you through the ins and outs of each approach.

Since the beginning of the term, I’ve spearheaded more nearly 50 motions at North York Community Council to address traffic and pedestrian safety issues. Each and every motion began with a community meeting and local engagement.

If you have a traffic or pedestrian safety issue in your neighbourhood, please don’t hesitate to bring it to my attention by email at Councillor_Robinson@toronto.ca or by phone at (416) 395-6408.

Crosstown Update

Crosstown construction continues on schedule and work will soon begin on the eastern leg!

As I noted in a previous newsletter, crews have started to relocate utilities along Eglinton between Brentcliffe and Leslie for the next phase of the project.

The soon-to-start next phase involves the construction of a launch shaft to provide access points for Don and Humber, the tunnel boring machines that will dig the 3.25 kilometres of underground twin tunnels towards Yonge Street. Crews will also start building the underground support walls at Laird and Bayview as well as an emergency exit building.

During construction, there will be lane reductions along Eglinton as well as TTC stop and sidewalk relocations.

The Crosstown Community Relations Team is working closely with city staff from Transportation Services on all aspects of the project.

They are keeping track of traffic issues and exploring solutions to keep traffic moving, including posting signs with alternate route information and signal retiming.

You can see all of the Crosstown construction updates online at www.thecrosstown.ca.

If you have any questions about the construction process or any traffic issues, please contact the Crosstown Community Relations Team by phone at 416-782-8118, by email at crosstown@metrolinx.com, or, by visiting their new office at Bayview and Eglinton (661 Eglinton Ave. E in the Sunnybrook Plaza) opening soon.