06/25/2014 12:52 EDT | Updated 08/25/2014 05:59 EDT

We Need To Think Outside the Box to Fight Gridlock

When I entered the race to become Toronto's next mayor, I had no delusions of grandeur. My team and I always knew it was going to be an uphill battle to garner the name recognition and media attention that the other celebrity candidates -- Olivia Chow, John Tory and of course, Rob Ford -- have. So, we set out to set the tone of the policy debate around the actual issues that matter and affect all Torontonians.

As anyone living in Toronto knows, one of the most pressing day-to-day problems we face in this city is the problem of gridlock. It seems no matter what time of day it is, getting around simply isn't as easy as it could be. Which is why I announced last week that as mayor, I would seek to end all parking on major downtown routes within a core area of downtown, freeing up space for car, bus and cycle through-traffic. In a few select cases, it may even be appropriate to make more room for pedestrian traffic.

Whether it's Dundas or College or University, what happens on each street will, in the end, be subject to professional review, reasonable fine-tuning and public consultation. A bike lane might fit best on one street, a through-lane for car traffic on another. But the important part is to start by declaring a principle: lanes on major streets exist to move people, not to serve as parking spots for a small number of empty cars.

There are three major components of the policy:

  • First, it would be phased in over a three-year period, beginning in 2017, as elimination of on-street parking stalls and meters on arterial streets within the downtown core. The area affected would be the major arterial roads within the square between Bloor, Spadina, Jarvis and Front.
  • Second, we would pursue revenue-sharing partnerships to finance and develop multi-level Green P parkades on up to eight (8) existing City-owned surface lots in the downtown core in order to compensate for the lost stalls.
  • Third, we would consult with city public servants, area stakeholders and the public on route priorities. to connect additional car lanes and/or cycling lanes on each route once cleared of parking obstructions.

While a few critics -- fellow mayoral candidate Olivia Chow, Councillor Doug Ford, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong to name a few - have denounced my idea as radical, the overall response has been overwhelmingly positive. Perhaps that is because the vast majority of us realize other major cities have taken similar steps to reduce their own gridlock, and Toronto is behind the curve on this one. Indeed, cities like New York, Philadelphia and Montreal all have severe limits on on-street downtown parking on key thoroughfares. This is not because of some radical urban agenda, but because other major cities have realized that roads are meant for moving people around, not for storing cars.

The fact of the matter is that our roads belong to all of us, cyclists, transit riders, motorists and pedestrians. If we truly want Toronto to be the best city it can be, we are going to need to accept the stark reality that the way we have been approaching gridlock simply is not working. Throwing more money at the problem won't solve everything, and more transit won't fix our congestion challenges alone without fixes for other modes. Credible ideas are the best way to fill the gap, and we're happy to be the campaign that's providing more of them.


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