Toronto Leaders Say They Hate Congestion — So Will They Support New Tolls?

Toronto fumbled on creating a more walkable, connected city when city leaders chose not to tear down the Gardiner East elevated waterfront highway. Mayor John Tory said it was important to rebuild the Gardiner “to keep congestion under control,” even though experience suggests traffic would have returned to its former levels as drivers adjusted to the new situation.

The Gardiner lives on but it could work better, for a small price. Photo: Greg Patterson via Architect this City
Toronto’s Don Valley Parkway could be this traffic-free much more often with the introduction of tolls. Photo: Greg Patterson via Architect This City

Brandon Donnelly at Network blog Architect This City says the move showed the city is “not yet ready to be an urban leader.” Meanwhile, Vancouver is considering tearing down the last two tiny remains of freeway infrastructure anywhere in the city.

The silver lining of the Toronto decision, says Donnelly, is that the City Council will consider tolling both the Gardiner and the Don Valley Parkway. Studies of those highway tolls have now been released, and Donnelly asks whether the fervor for saving motorists time — which was the whole justification for lavishing money on rebuilding the Gardiner — will carry over to the debate over tolling:

The Coles Notes version (CliffNotes for you Americans) is that a $3 flat toll on both the Gardiner and the DVP — the same cost as riding transit in this city — would be expected to reduce vehicles on the highways by 9% and 12%, as well reduce end-to-end travel times by 3 minutes and 5 minutes, respectively. There’s obviously a lot more in the report, but these figures stood out for me.

Given how monumental the 3 minute delay was in the Gardiner East debates, it will be interesting to see whether people treat a 3 minute time savings in a similar way. I suspect they won’t. The cost will be the larger issue.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Streets.mn lists five ways the media frequently “walk shames” people struck by drivers while walking. Seattle Bike Blog reports that the city is planning a record 50 pop-up parks for tomorrow’s Park(ing) Day festivities. And Wash Cycle writes that DC City Council is considering a “bicycle and pedestrian safety act” that would provide additional protections for vulnerable road users.

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