The Most Avoidable Cause Of Traffic Congestion In Toronto

It’s the most avoidable, and it’s also my most hated.

I’ve talked about this in the past, and for the life of me, I can’t understand why Toronto city council continues to allow condominium developers to essentially “lease” an entire lane of traffic for years at a time, and motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians suffer.

Just because I sell condos for a living doesn’t mean I’m not outraged at the bending-over-backwards that the city does to accommodate developers.

Shutting down lanes of traffic is unnecessary, and if you believe John Tory, it’s going to stop…

Richmond Street.

Those two words, if you’re a motorist, make you cringe right now.

We all know that Richmond Street has been down to one lane since the summer, and yet there’s no real way around it, so we take Richmond when we go west, and the traffic alleviates once we hit University Avenue.

I take that route 5-6 times per week, as I drive throughout the GTA.

Last weekend, I found myself stuck in gridlock once I passed Spadina, and there I sat, barely moving, for almost ten minutes.

It wasn’t until I could see up ahead that it finally dawned on me: “The city has sold another lane of traffic.”

It drives me crazy.

I’ve read a few articles over the past week about Mayor John Tory trying to eliminate or reduce these “condo closures” of our city streets.  HERE‘s an article from which I’ll take the following excerpt:

In spring 2015, Toronto upped the price developers pay to close lanes of traffic for their work. A flat fee of $5.77 per square metre jumped to between $26.35 and $105.41 per square metre on a monthly basis.

At the time, it was hoped developers would see the higher charges and adjust their behaviour. It hasn’t worked out that way, Tory admitted Tuesday.

“I tried the financial carrot and the results just aren’t good enough,” he said. “So now, we’ll have to use a bit of the regulatory stick, hopefully combined with some approaches that work in other cities and some private sector ingenuity.”

Oh give me a break!

$105.41 per square metre, per month?

That’s not going to discourage any developer from thinking outside the box, and trying to avoid blocking traffic for two years.

And where the HELL did this $5.77 fee originate?  Why even bother?

Our congestion in Toronto is getting worse and worse as our population grows, public transit is still trying to catch up with the 1980’s, construction dominates the warm-weather months, and these road closures just kill us sometimes.

Then again, sometimes it’s not just a lane that’s closed.  Sometimes it’s an entire street!  Take a look:

It’s getting sad when we can accurately predict future lane closures.

Here’s Dundas & Jarvis, where I shot a video a few weeks back, showing the demolition of buildings on the northeast and southeast corners, both of which are going to be condos.

As I say in the following video, we finally got the west lane of traffic back after two years of it being “leased” from the city by Great Gulf Homes.

How long until the east lane is bought out, and the traffic bottleneck begins all over again:


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  1. Negotiator says:

    I would ask the question why should lane closures be tolerated at all? If the City insisted on all hoarding and development to take place on the development lands, couldn’t they find a way to make it work?

    The other alternative is that the closure fees need to be orders of magnitude larger. If the City would charge $100,000/day to close a lane we’d see the usage really limited to only when it’s absolutely necessary.

  2. Another Mike says:

    Thanks for raising this issue on your blog. This sort of thing happens constantly, and in addition to traffic congestion, makes biking in the city very dangerous. I personally stopped biking to work due to lane closures on Wellington and then Richmond. The Richmond closure was particularly frustrating because they dug up/blocked the brand new separated bike lane within a few days of its opening, and urged cyclists to ride in between streetcar tracks instead.

    In addition to any fees, perhaps the city should consider instituting a maximum number of days per month or year that a given project can be allowed to block a lane. Any trucks further blocking the lanes would be subject to the same enforcement as anyone else who stops/parks illegally in the city. The developers would have to schedule their activities better in order to take advantage of the days they have the road, instead of the current state where they have no motivation at all to get off the road under any time frame at all.

  3. Condodweller says:

    Paying for lane closures is a non-starter in my book. If the fees are small it makes no difference, if it’s large where they might think about altering behaviour they will just pass it on to the buyers which will result in even higher condo prices. It’s not like there is anybody out there trying to lower prices, right?

    A trip from DVP on Richmond to Bathurst this summer at 5:00 PM took me about 50 minutes. The good old days of three open lanes (I believe it used to be 5 lanes with parking on either side and turning lanes were in the side lanes) are gone. Richmond and Adelaide used to be awesome streets to get across the core.

    1. Mike says:

      Probably had more to do with the fact that Richmond is being ripped up to be resurfaced and replace the streetcar tracks. That’s been well publicised all year.

      Also to your point about developers passing along costs: if a developer can charge more but save money they’re going to do that. They’re not taking up a lane because you end up paying for it, they do it because it helps speed up construction. Faster construction means lower cost, means more profit. I’ve yet to find a developer who’s not in the game to make more money.

      John Tory can say all he wants on the subject but once the developers point out that they need the lane blockage for trucks to access the site and they’d need to occupy the lane anyways, he’ll change his tune. Remember, this is the guy who has road crews working 24/7 so that they can open the road quicker. If taking up a lane of traffic for 1-year cuts one month of blocked lanes because it allows developers to build faster then it only makes sense to take the fee and close the lane.

  4. Dan says:

    I had to read the charges three times. Way too low on a monthly basis. Hell, I could pay to shut down a lane for my own amusement at that cost. Likely needs to be based on a daily figure in that neighbourhood before you see any change to behaviours.