Each year, congestion costs our City almost $11 billion in lost productivity. With many local infrastructure and development projects underway, Leaside is no stranger to the impacts of congestion – an issue exacerbated by lane occupancy.
When space on the public right-of-way is occupied by construction trucks, traffic patterns are impacted by pinch points that constrain the movement of vehicles. Lane occupancy permits are often required by developments that are approved lot-line-to-lot-line, limiting the amount of private space available for construction staging.
Traffic congestion and travel time delays can lead to escalating driver frustration, which in turn encourages aggressive driving and traffic infiltration on our residential streets – an issue that is all too common in Leaside. Both as your local Councillor and the former chair of transportation, reducing gridlock and limiting lane occupancy permits have been some of my long-term priorities at City Hall.
Last term, I led the charge to clamp down on private construction by increasing fees for street occupation. I directed City staff to report on options to shorten the duration of street occupations, including escalating fees, increasing fees at the time of permit renewal, and considering fees for congestion-related economic impacts, such as the City’s time and productivity losses. Several times, I have pushed to eliminate the practice of lane occupancy altogether.
As a result, instead of a City-wide flat fee, permit fee rates were changed to reflect the market rate for space on public roadways as informed by on-street metered parking rates. In some areas, fees have increased from $5.77 per square metre per month to between $29.90 and $145.26 per square metre per month.
In my role as chair of the TTC, I successfully championed the implementation of a TTC Variable Lane Occupancy Fee for private developers occupying the public right-of-way on transit routes. Without this fee in place, the incremental costs of service changes and delays incurred as a direct result of private development would be borne by City of Toronto taxpayers. The objective of this policy is not only to recover costs but also to discourage developers from applying for lane closures on busy TTC routes, such as Bayview Avenue.
These changes to the fee structure have complemented our Congestion Management Plan (CMP) – a multi-pronged strategy to improve traffic flow in our busiest corridors. The CMP includes measures such as upgraded traffic signals, new CCTV subsystems on major highways such as the Don Valley Parkway that have improved response times to accidents, and the use of big data to aid in the development of context-specific, evidence-based action plans to improve traffic flow.
While these initiatives are important steps, there is still work to be done to address congestion in our neighbourhoods. We need to continue identifying opportunities to leverage new technologies, limit the number of approved lane occupancies, coordinate major construction projects and improve the flow of traffic on our busiest streets.
At the time of writing, the Infrastructure and Environment Committee unanimously approved a request for a new City-wide policy that automatically denies lane occupancy requests except in circumstances where no other options are available. If approved by City Council, I look forward to reviewing an updated policy that will help to reduce gridlock across Toronto and in local neighbourhoods like Leaside.