Today, Toronto City Council will approve the 12-hour closure of both its major highways for a charity bicycle ride in June. The Ride for Heart, an annual event that raises funds for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, involves the complete closure of both the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway between 2am and 2pm on June 14, 2017 – and again on June 3, 2018. While the healthy and generous will enjoy an amazing ride on a public highway, the rest of Toronto will suffer (again) from unbearable traffic chaos.
There’s no winning this argument. This ride is a success, specifically because it closes two highways. Take it off the highways, and the event doesn’t work: the highway ride is people are paying for. Despite many entirely rational arguments against closing critical public infrastructure for frivolous recreation, there is no way Toronto Council is going to shut down this event anytime soon. Given these facts, the real question City Council should grapple with today is: “How do we minimize the negative impact of this event?”
“Highway closures are not going away any time soon. The real question is: ‘how do we minimize the negative impact?'”
The item before Council today includes two recommended mitigating tactics:
- Staff recommend Council prohibit the closure of any other roads due to film permits or events on arterial roads in the downtown core. Notably, road closures for construction or other reasons are not prohibited. Perhaps, they should be.
- Staff want Council to request the Toronto Transit Commission not to schedule any subway closures during the period the highways are closed. Given that Toronto owns the TTC outright, one might expect this to be more than just a “request.”
Here’s two more traffic-smoothing tactics Council should add to this plan:
- Parking Prohibition. Council should ban on-street parking on parallel arterial routes including King St., Queen St. and Dundas St. during the highway closure. This will allow these routes to better accommodate the influx of additional traffic that will be pushed off the highways.
- Adjusted Signal Timing. The timing of traffic signals on the alternate arterial routes should be adjusted to reflect the additional traffic that will be pushed off the highways. Normal Sunday signal timings don’t work when there’s crush-hour traffic trying to parallel the closed highways.
I suggested this to Toronto Mayor John Tory on my NEWSTALK1010 radio program this past Sunday and he agreed. Despite this, however, the item was passed by Council without amendment – so neither of my suggests have been incorporated into the plan. Prepare yourselves, Torontonians, for another day of entirely unnecessary traffic chaos.
N.B. The last paragraph of this post has been updated to reflect Council’s decision not to amend the Ride for Heart closure plan.