traffic and congestion

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Bayview Traffic Working Group Update

As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, traffic and congestion have been front and centre throughout city planning’s ongoing Bayview design guidelines study.

Based on your feedback and the advice of senior city staff, I passed a successful motion directing city staff to establish a Bayview Avenue traffic working group. The working group complements city planning’s design guidelines study and focuses on traffic and congestion issues on Bayview between Lawrence and the 401 – including the traffic impacts of intensification.

More than 800 notices were mailed out for the kick off meeting in late June. City staff agreed to undertake a thorough analysis of this important stretch of Bayview and return to the table to continue the discussion. If you would like to get involved in the traffic working group or the design guidelines study just send me an email or give my office a call.

Gardiner Expressway Update

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, earlier this year, city staff released a report on the joint City of Toronto and Waterfront Toronto study on the eastern section of the Gardiner Express way (from Jarvis to Logan).

City staff reviewed four options for the future of the eastern section of the Gardiner (maintain, improve, replace and remove) and recommended the remove option.

When city staff’s report came to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in late March, the Committee directed staff to report back in early 2015 following further study of the track and congestion impacts of the recommended option.

The Committee also asked staff to study a proposal brought forward by First Gulf that involves realigning the eastern leg of the Gardiner.

Accelerated Rehabilitation

While the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee deferred a decision on the Gardiner’s eastern leg pending further study, City Council approved an innovative plan to accelerate the rehabilitation of the elevated highway.

The newly approved plan centres on the use of prefabricated deck and girder sections to replace the at-grade and deck sections of the expressway at the same time. The new approach is expected to shave eight years of construction time o of the rehabilitation project, which city sta estimate is equal to about $3 billion in user impacts.

City rolls out real-time travel time info on highways

The roll out of the city’s congestion management plan continues!

The city just launched a pilot project where real-time travel information will be displayed on electronic signs on our highways and arterial roads to provide motorists with better information as they travel around the city.

The 11 signs, located on the Gardiner, DVP and Lake Shore Boulevard, will display the travel time to various points along these routes. Seven more signs will be installed as part of the project this year.

This project is part of the city’s five-year plan to tackle congestion and improve traffic flow, which also includes signal retiming and synchronization as well as curb lane management and the installation of traffic cameras to improve real time traffic management.

City rolls out real-time travel time info on highways

The roll out of the city’s congestion management plan continues!

The city just launched a pilot project where real-time travel information will be displayed on electronic signs on our highways and arterial roads to provide motorists with better information as they travel around the city.

The 11 signs, located on the Gardiner, DVP and Lake Shore Boulevard, will display the travel time to various points along these routes. Seven more signs will be installed as part of the project this year.

This project is part of the city’s five-year plan to tackle congestion and improve traffic flow, which also includes signal retiming and synchronization as well as curb lane management and the installation of traffic cameras to improve real time traffic management.

Progress on Congestion and Gridlock

Earlier this month, I took the reins of my first Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting as Chair.

Congestion and girdlock remain my number one priority and it was front and centre on Public Works’ agenda.

The Committee voted to move forward with a pilot project to reduce congestion by speeding up city-led construction projects. Among other things, the pilot will explore extending work hours, shifting to overnight work and using incentive-based contracts.

The Committee also took an advanced look at some of the congestion-cutting initiatives lined up for 2015, including the roll-out of 80 additional arterial cameras, a pilot of the latest “smart signal” technology and signal synchronizations on 12 major corridors.

I spearheaded two motions to help get the city moving.

The first asks for a report on using portable cameras at construction sites, allowing us to monitor and respond to construction-related gridlock in real time.

The second asks for a report on how we can better share traffic-related information between the city’s key players, like the TTC and the Transportation Services Division. I also asked city staff to explore using “Big Data” to understand, evaluate and respond to congestion.

You can see copies of my motions here and here. You can also read up on the city’s plan to speed up public-sector construction projects here.

Six-Point Traffic Plan

Speaking to the media during the announcement of the six-point traffic plan.

Speaking to the media during the announcement of the six-point traffic plan.

Late last week, I joined Mayor John Tory to announce a six-point plan to battle traffic and congestion.

The plan focuses on common sense actions that can deliver results quickly.

For example, we’re going to synchronize an additional 100 traffic lights in 2015 and roll out a pilot project of 20 next generation smart signals that can respond in real time to changes in traffic volumes.

Enforcement is also a central plank of the plan – parking enforcement officers will be redeployed to main streets and, after January 1, the city will instigate a zero tolerance towing policy for vehicles blocking major routes during rush hour.

For more about the city’s five year Congestion Management Plan, click here.

Gardiner Expressway Environmental Assesment

Photo:  Gardiner East

The city and Waterfront Toronto are studying options for the future of the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway from Jarvis Street to Logan Avenue.

The options under review are to maintain the expressway as it is and perform annual maintenance; keep the expressway, but look for ways to improve it; replace it with a new above or below ground expressway; or, remove it and replace it with a new boulevard.

Earlier this week, city staff released a report on the joint City of Toronto and Waterfront Toronto study on the future of the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway from Jarvis to Logan.

City staff reviewed four options for the future of the eastern section of the Gardiner: maintain, improve, replace or remove. You can read the full report here.

The report will go to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee next week and is expected to come before City Council for a final vote in early April.

I will be watching the committee proceedings closely and fully reviewing the report before it comes to Council.

If you haven’t already, I’d appreciate hearing from you on this issue – your feedback is integral to my decision making process.

Just send me an email at Councillor_Robinson@toronto.ca or call my office at 416-395-6408 and let me know what you think!

You can learn more about the study as well as the options under review by visiting www.gardinereast.ca/.

Porter Proposal to Use Jets at Billy Bishop Airport

In April, Porter Airlines announced it has conditionally ordered 12 new Bombardier jets, which can fly further than its current fleet of turboprop planes.

The use of Billy Bishop is governed by a tripartite agreement between the city, the federal government and the Port Authority. For Porter’s jet proposal to go forward, all three parties would have to agree to amend the agreement that governs airport operations, namely lifting a ban on jets and approving a runway expansion.

Many of you have written or spoken to me about Porter Airlines’ proposal to expand service at Billy Bishop Island Airport and I appreciate your thoughts and feedback!

A city staff report on the proposal – examining its economic and environmental as well as traffic and congestion impacts – is underway and expected to come before City Council in early 2014.

The city just wrapped up three public information sessions about the proposal. An additional session is expected in November and I encourage you to take part and have your say!

If you have not already, please do not forget to let me know what you think by sending me an email or by calling my office at (416) 395-6408!