Two prominent mayoral candidates took aim Thursday at lane hogs and intersection blockers in describing how they would fight gridlock in Toronto.
John Tory told reporters the city needs to adopt zero tolerance for delivery trucks and errand runners blocking curb lanes of busy streets in rush hour.
In a separate news conference at Donlands Ave. and O’Connor Dr., Olivia Chow called for a crackdown on motorists blocking intersections. She said she saw a van block an intersection Wednesday for an entire light as gridlocked motorists fumed.
Tory said stricter enforcement, including more aggressive towing, is needed to discourage courier companies and people doing errands from parking illegally in the curb lane.
Tory, a former Rogers Cable chief executive, said that goes for cable trucks as well. He characterized lane blocking as a form of anti-social behaviour.
“Those are people who’ve decided that getting a coffee, fixing somebody’s cable or delivering a courier package are more important than the lives and time of hundreds of people,” he said.
“I think it’s time we said no to that. I think if you start towing people away, they’ll pretty quickly stop parking there.
“But the bottom line is we can’t just go on saying, ‘Oh well, it’s okay for people to park in rush hour on busy streets.’ It’s not okay. It’s strangling the city.”
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Both Chow and Tory would also try to discourage condo developers from occupying the curb lane, in some cases for years, while the building is going up. Tory specifically mentioned hoarding on projects on Adelaide and Charles Sts. downtown that has bedeviled motorists for a long time.
Chow said contractors should be fined for blocking lanes when no work is going on, and should pay increasing fees the longer a lane is cordoned off.
“If a company is not performing well, blocking the lane for construction and dragging their feet, then they should pay more,” she said. “We should reward good performance.”
The current city council is considering ways to reduce construction-related lane blocking, said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works and infrastructure committee.
“If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I am very flattered,” Minnan-Wong said. “We’re looking at the lane closures for development applications, substantially increasing the fees and limiting the time.”
Tory’s anti-gridlock plan also includes keeping the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway from Jarvis to the Don Valley Parkway, improving transit bus movement and considering whether the private sector might operate water taxis unsecured personal loans.
Chicago has water taxis on the Chicago River, and such watercraft might work in Toronto, for example by bringing residents downtown from the Palace Pier area of Etobicoke’s waterfront, which is poorly served by transit, he said.
“I think we have to think a little bit outside the box. If you think it (water taxi) is of interest, come forward with your ideas and we’ll take a look at it,” he said.
Chow said Tory is out of touch in bringing up water taxis; she doesn’t believe such a service would be viable. She suggested her proposal to increase bus service in rush hour would deliver better results.
Tory, meanwhile, said he’s open to hearing anyone’s ideas on how to reduce traffic congestion.
“I think the worst enemy of the public in Toronto right now is inaction on this and not being willing to open our minds to new ideas that can move people.”
Tory unveiled his plans at a news conference at the home of Marsha Seca, in the Bayview and Eglinton area. Seca spoke about her frustrations trying to commute to her job in Vaughan.
Chow’s gridlock plan
Crack down on drivers who block curb lanes during rush hour and those who block intersections, preventing traffic from moving. Charge builders more, the longer they close a curb lane to construct a building. Fine contractors hired by the city who close lanes when no work is underway. Fine utility companies that dig holes in the road but don’t repair them properly. Use fine revenue to fill potholes. Co-ordinate traffic lights better. Give people better notice of upcoming road closures. Hire a traffic liaison person for the mayor’s office.
Tory’s gridlock plan
Tow vehicles, including delivery and service trucks, that block curb lanes of busy streets in rush hour. Review fees that builders pay the city for permission to close curb lanes to ease construction. Co-ordinate traffic lights better. Add road space for buses to drop off and pick up, out of the flow of traffic. Add express buses on some routes, such as Dufferin St. and Don Mills Rd. Explore private-sector interest in operating water taxis on Lake Ontario. Retain the east end of the Gardiner Expressway from Jarvis St. to the Don Valley Parkway. Explore changing the alignment to free up more waterfront land for development.
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