NEWS

'Giant loophole' in gridlock plan, traffic expert says

01/03/2012 09:50 EST | Updated 03/04/2012 05:12 EST

A prominent Toronto transit advocate says city proposals to ease traffic flow through steeper fines and tougher enforcement are a good start, but won't succeed unless councillors close a "giant loophole" that fails to crack down on commercial vehicles.

Steve Munro, a transit activist for 40 years, criticized the plan outlined in a city gridlock report to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, ahead of the committee's meeting on Wednesday.

Munro said the plan is misguided, even though he agrees with recommendations for higher fines and changing the hours of rush hour.

"The only problem is there's a giant loophole … proposing that commercial vehicles like couriers will be able to buy a permit allowing them to park in locations that everybody else can't," he said.

"It's supposed to be only outside of the rush hour, but we all know that the problem today is there are vans parked all over the place, all the time, rush hour or not."

Munro said that proposal would essentially give delivery vehicles licence to park anywhere they wish, except during the rush hour — a problem that he feels is already out of hand.

'Targeting the wrong people'

"Frankly, I think [the city report] is targeting the wrong people because if you walk around downtown — ride around downtown — by far the vast majority of vehicle are commercial vehicles," he said.

City councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee is meeting to devise solutions to downtown congestion and illegal parking and stopping.

Among the suggestions was to raise illegal parking fines to $150. Currently, motorists who ignore no stopping zones face fines of $40 to $60.

"It's a stiff fine, but if you aren't parking illegally during rush hour you have nothing to worry about," Minnan-Wong said.

"There is nothing more frustrating than trying to get home on one of the many arterial roads across the city and then finding half of the capacity is cut off because some jackass is parked and stopping traffic for everybody else," he added.

Downtown transportation study

Minnan-Wong said councillors are also considering how to better time and co-ordinate construction projects, particularly in the summer months.

In the meantime, the city is starting a downtown transportation study to look at everything from different designs of roadways, improving left turns and better signalling at intersections.

Even so, Munro said solving the issue of how to use road space will be a tricky balance, noting that someone is bound to be unhappy with a certain level of enforcement. Deciding to have four lanes clear during the rush hour might have to be "ruthlessly enforced," even if it proves unpopular, he said.

"It's going to make the taxi industry extraordinarily unhappy. It's going to make the couriers unhappy. It's going to make Canada Post unhappy," Munro said.

Aggressively enforcing the exiting traffic bylaws will ensure that drivers respect the rules, he said.

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