Toronto to tackle rush-hour gridlock with higher fines

ABOVE: New parking rules go into effect Thursday. Sean Mallen reports. 

TORONTO – The City of Toronto has a congestion problem and hopes $150 parking tickets and more towed cars will ease the gridlock.

The plan is one of several the city intends to announce Tuesday to keep traffic moving more smoothly on streets, especially in the downtown core.

“Congestion costs Toronto commuters billions of dollars each year. Illegally stopped and parked vehicles contribute to congestion,” Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said adding the plan will deter “individuals or businesses who don’t seem to care about the implications of their decision to park illegally.”

The new rules go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 23.

One of the initiatives is to increase the current fixed fine ticket rate for drivers who park in no-stopping zones from $60 to $150 during rush hour. Minnan-Wong suggested the fixed fine would reduce the number of tickets taken to court in an attempt to reduce the fine.

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The new fine would be enforced from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

READ MORE: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal among most congested cities in North America

And drivers who’ve accumulated three tickets could have their car towed if the tickets go unpaid for 120 days. The city will not start towing cars until 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 5 to give people a chance to settle unpaid tickets, Minnan-Wong said.

“The inconvenience of having a car towed will serve as a strong incentive to clear unpaid tickets,” he said.

The changes are part of Toronto’s “comprehensive congestion management plan” announced last month to curb traffic congestion over the next five years.

READ MORE: City of Toronto singles out 10 most congested intersections

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Among the other key elements of the congestion management plan are:

• upgrading the City’s traffic signal management software to a new system by the end of 2014
• the re-evaluation and co-ordination of approximately 1,000 traffic signals
• the installation of 100 traffic cameras on arterial roads to better detect problems on these key transportation routes
• the addition of 13 variable message signs along the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway
• better management and use of curb lanes.

READ MORE: No quick fix for Toronto’s traffic problems: expert

Officials say the changes will allow the city to better respond to changes in traffic conditions and improve efficiency along key corridors.

VIDEO: (Sept. 23, 2013) Experts warn of a broader impact to our economy as congestion keeps people at home. Jackson Proskow reports.

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