Downtown traffic tieups strangle work bound Public transit too crowded for local commuters: BIA exec warns of economic damage

Dennis Hanagan –

Traffic congestion in the Downtown core is so bad that the city is undertaking a study see how cars, pedestrians, cyclists and public transit can try to live together.

“We’ve heard a vast number of concerns,” Andre Filippetti, manager of traffic planning for Toronto and East York, told The Bulletin in late March.

He was at a forum at Metro Hall seeking public feedback about traffic congestion in the Downtown core as bounded by Bathurst, Queen, Jarvis, Queens Quay, and Dundas between Yonge and University.
People shared “a myriad of problems and concerns” with Filippetti. His report is likely to go to public works and infrastructure committee in October.

“Toronto is in a huge transition period in terms of development and overall growth. The growth has been unprecedented here in the city,” he said in an interview.

“It’s probably one of the more intense development areas in the world. We’re really in this period where I think a lot of the pressures are coming to roost. It’s a real challenge to try to keep on top of it with an aging infrastructure.”

Charts at the forum asked people to pinpoint bottle neck areas due to construction hoardings,illegal parking, and loading and unloading in traffic lanes. People pinpointed Portland and King, Adelaide east of York St.,John and King, and Front at Portland.

Feedback included comments such as educating drivers to close up space between idling vehicles, no deliveries during rush hour, expanding the hours of noparking sites, free shuttles to sporting events, eliminating the Yonge-Dundas “scramble,” and letting cyclists ride on sidewalks where there are no bike lanes.

A private traffic consultant— who didn’t want to be named—said congestion is affecting Downtown life. “The congestion and delay that’s happening is definitely causing people to change their patterns, avoid coming Downtown,” he said. “It’s costing people money. I’m not sure whether we can improve it or just keep it from getting worse. With the growth that’s happening down here just keeping it the same is going to be a challenge.”

A Don Mills woman who gave only her first name, Judy, blamed the core’s high density for congestion. “There’s so much traffic now because there’s so many new condos going in down here.”
“You get more people,you get more cars. I don’t know if they’re taking that into account when they’re putting up all these new condos.”

Janice Solomon, executive director for the Entertainment District BIA, was at the forum and sees improving public transit as one possible solution to ease congestion.

Public service announcements reminding motorists not to text or use cell phones in traffic, and prohibiting deliveries during rush hours are other ways to help, she says. She also trained in on construction
hoardings taking up traffic lanes.

“Public transit, unfortunately, hasn’t really kept up with the times so a lot of people are driving Downtown because they don’t necessarily feel they have an alternative and ultimately that’s adding to the congestion.”

She cited the plight of frustrated Liberty Village commuters turned off by packed King streetcars as they try to get to their Downtown workplaces.

“The majority of people have resigned themselves to walking or taking a taxi or cycling because they can’t get on those streetcars during rush hour. It’s a sad state to think people are trying to commute using public transit and they absolutely cannot get on them,” she said.

“We also have to take a look at the way deliveries are brought into the Downtown core. Most are aware Manhattan doesn’t accept deliveries… during rush hour.”