Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Instead of new powers for the TTC, how about super powers?

Busy streetcar routes like King are often stalled by parked cars and street closures.
Busy streetcar routes like King are often stalled by parked cars and street closures.

A pair of moves by Toronto politicians last week should help put the TTC on the right track.

First there was Mayor John Tory’s letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne requesting the necessary approvals to allow TTC officials to direct traffic during transit disruptions. The mayor says he’s also on board with changes that would allow TTC employees to ticket and tow cars belonging to the irredeemable jerks who block transit routes.

Then there was Coun. Mike Layton, who gave word he wants to see modern cameras on streetcars that automatically record license plates and ticket the extra-irredeemable mega-jerks who illegally drive past streetcar doors when passengers are boarding.

These are good ideas. In a city less worried about those who claim there’s some sort of nefarious “war on cars” they probably would have been implemented years ago.

But better late than never.

They’re smart moves because they recognize that safe and efficient transit movement should always get priority over automobile traffic.

A single stalled car or idling delivery van should never hold up a bus or streetcar packed with dozens of people. The TTC should be able to quickly and unilaterally call up a tow truck and clear the route.

Similarly, the simple act of boarding a streetcar shouldn’t turn into a game of chicken with impatient drivers. Anyone who puts riders in danger should face a huge, automatic traffic ticket.

But, hey, why stop there? Instead of just giving TTC a few new powers to keep transit moving, let’s give them the super powers they need to fight the other regular occurrences that frustrate the hell out of riders.

For instance, the TTC should be able to suspend on-street parking and even close streets to non-transit traffic altogether during subway closures and other major diversions.

During scheduled weekend subway closures, there’s no good reason why TTC shuttle buses should be dodging parked cars. And on days when there are unscheduled subway shutdowns, why not throw up some barricades and turn Yonge or Bloor into bus-only streets?

And while we’re on a roll, let’s empower the TTC to come forward with a list of traffic signal changes that could quickly improve transit quality. I’m talking about things like cars making left-turns off of Broadview onto Danforth, delaying streetcars as they leave Broadview Station, or the poorly-located King Street taxi stands downtown.

These everyday obstructions could be gone tomorrow. All it takes is a little effort, and a recognition that this stuff matters.

That starts with proper prioritization.

Efficient vehicles carrying dozens of passengers shouldn’t ever get held up by single-occupant cars.

Toronto’s street design and traffic enforcement should be aligned behind a simple rule: on our streets, transit moves first.

This post was originally published at on 2017-01-09T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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