06/08/2012 09:23 EDT | Updated 08/08/2012 05:12 EDT

Toronto Suburbs Have City's Worst Traffic, Staff Say


City staff say much of Toronto's worst traffic congestion is in the suburbs — and that they already know the best way to fix the problem.

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works and infrastructure committee, is asking staff to find solutions for the 10 most congested areas, most of which are in the suburbs.

Four are along Sheppard Avenue — a problem that will only get worse in the coming years as the street becomes a construction zone to build Light Rail Transit.

"I think it might take some people back to learn the suburbs are just as bad, if not worse," Minnan-Wong said.

Commuter Frank Dolat said he waits 15 minutes every day to get through the light at Bayview and Sheppard Avenues — the area pinpointed as the very worst in the city. Dolat said he even brings a stack of newspapers and magazines so he has something to read while he waits.

Sensors needed

City staff say they already have the solution.

"We're looking at systems that can adapt to real-time conditions," said Myles Currie, Toronto's director of transportation.

Except for about 200 intersections downtown, Toronto's traffic lights run on timers, taking no account of how many cars are coming from each direction.

Currie wants to install so-called smart traffic lights — with sensors built into the road — that will determine traffic volume.

"If we find one direction heavier than the other, we'll add more green time," he said.

Staff say the lights would cost about $50 million. It's not clear where that money might come from. However, a 2011 Toronto Board of Trade report said gridlock is costing the region $6 billion annually, and rising.