Province is set to change Highway Traffic Act to allow non-police officers to direct traffic on Toronto streets.Torontonians will finally see full-time traffic wardens on city streets in early 2018, Mayor John Tory announced Monday as part of his continuing campaign to battle congestion.
“I’m hopeful that they’re wearing a bright orange coat, or a bright green coat or something so people will clearly see who they are and what they are and what they’re there to do,” Tory said standing in Nathan Phillips Square during the morning rush hour.
The province has agreed to make the necessary changes under the Highway Traffic Act that will authorize officers other than police to manage pedestrian and car traffic on city streets, and, if needed, around construction sites.
The move is a long time coming.
For years, critics, including the mayor, have questioned why highly paid and trained police officers should receive lucrative paid-duty assignments to direct traffic.
In 2016, city staff released a report that said lesser-paid special constables, not just police officers, should be permitted to direct traffic.
“Police powers should not be a prerequisite for directing traffic,” said the report. “Other persons with appropriate training could fulfill the function safely in a more cost-effective manner.”
While waiting for provincial approval, Tory initiated a pilot program using paid-duty police officers to go to key intersections experiencing bottlenecks.
The pilot project was a success, Tory said.
“We found a minimum of 90-per-cent reduction in intersection blockage by vehicles and a 70-per-cent reduction in intersection blockage by pedestrians.”
The mayor announced other measures Monday, which coincided with the Toronto Police Service’s heightened rush-hour enforcement campaign.
The days of utility trucks blocking lanes of traffic during the day for non-emergency work, “are over,” Tory said. “We cannot have non-emergency work… being done at a time when it’s going to cause this city to grind to a halt.”
The mayor said he will be meeting with the officials of Toronto Hydro, gas and telecom companies to discuss confining non-emergency work requiring lane closures to off-peak hours, 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
The city will also create two “quick-clear squads” that will monitor traffic lanes along key downtown corridors, the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, and make sure they’re not blocked.
The traffic operation centre will dispatch these teams to locations where there are reports of lanes being blocked.
“We will have these two squads that will be watching for cars that are blocking these lanes, often times because of a collision, or because of stalled cars, and get them out of there, so they don’t block the traffic,” Tory said.
Source: The Toronto Star