Toronto asking province for higher fines, stricter rules to curb excessive vehicle noise

·4 min read
The Don Valley Park Way is pictured here from a drone on July 14, 2021. Residents who live near by have sent numerous complaints to city hall about excessive vehicle noise.  (Patrick Morrell/CBC - image credit)
The Don Valley Park Way is pictured here from a drone on July 14, 2021. Residents who live near by have sent numerous complaints to city hall about excessive vehicle noise. (Patrick Morrell/CBC - image credit)

Toronto will take steps to curb excessive vehicle noise in the city by appealing to the province for higher fines and stricter rules on modifications to exhaust systems that make cars sound louder.

The city will also, as part of its noise bylaw review next year, introduce a sound level limit for vehicles when their engines are idle. Currently, the noise bylaw has a decibel limit for motorcycles only.

Councillors approved these measures this week, among others, after receiving hundreds of complaints about excessive vehicle noise from Toronto residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents have said the city and police aren't doing enough about the problem, enforcement is lax and the city's past efforts to crack down on vehicle noise have largely failed.

"I would like to see robust enforcement everywhere," Coun. Paula Fletcher, who represents Toronto-Danforth, told council on Thursday. "I don't think we have it under control, or even a smidgen under control, to the way that citizens and residents expect that we do."

Council also decided at its marathon meeting to direct Toronto police to conduct more joint enforcement blitzes with city bylaw enforcement officers and to provide officers with sound level meters, all in an effort to crack down on unnecessary vehicle noise offences under the Highway Traffic Act.

Coun. Shelley Carroll, who represents Don Valley North, agreed the city needs to do more to lessen vehicle noise. She noted council has passed motions about excessive vehicle noise for years.

Carroll said she lives close to the Don Valley Parkway and wears orange earplugs every night because vehicle noise disrupts her sleep. Her constituents experience the same problem, she said. Complaints are building and the province needs to listen, she added.

"It's not going away until you're really putting the full force on it. I hope they're listening loud and clear," Carroll said. "We have to get a hold of this."

'We have more work to do on this,' official says

Carleton Grant, executive director of the city's municipal licensing and standards, told council that police and bylaw officers have carried out joint enforcement blitzes on motorcycles in Yorkville, Don Valley Parkway and Lawrence Avenue, and Lake Shore Boulevard West in south Etobicoke.

On Saturday in Yorkville, police and bylaw officers pulled over 10 motorcycles and issued three charges. More blitzes are planned for this year, he said.

"We continue to work on this. And we have more work to do on this," Grant said.

Keith Whelan/CBC
Keith Whelan/CBC

In a news release on Friday, Mayor John Tory also acknowledged the problem.

"Excessive vehicle noise, which in most cases is a result of vehicles that have been deliberately modified to create such a noise, is a major nuisance to residents in many neighbourhoods across Toronto," Tory said.

Specifically, the city will ask the Ontario government to:

  • Increase fines and assign demerit points for modified exhaust and unnecessary vehicle noise offences under the Highway Traffic Act.

  • Develop stricter and more specific regulations on vehicle modifications, including provisions to allow for periodic inspections of vehicle exhausts and potential modifications.

  • Make regulatory changes to enable the city to initiate an automated noise enforcement pilot project.

Council also decided that the city will remind licensed car repair shops that muffler cut-outs, straight exhausts, gutted mufflers, Hollywood mufflers, by-passes and similar devices are prohibited under the Highway Traffic Act.

Ken Linton/CBC
Ken Linton/CBC

And when it reviews its noise bylaw in 2023, the city said it will:

  • Explore options for setting decibel limits for such devices as leaf blowers, lawn mowers, grass trimmers and chainsaws,

  • Report back on technological developments on noise-activated cameras and automated noise enforcement.

  • Examine the health impacts of noise with the help of Toronto Public Health.

  • Report on noise from city vehicles and fleets, including garbage trucks.

As for leaf blower noise, the city said it will launch public information campaigns in the summer and fall to educate residents about the appropriate use of the machines and alternative ways to keep yards clean. It will also give residents tips on green technologies.

"There's this amazing thing called a rake that works and that is really effective," Toronto-St. Paul's Coun. Josh Matlow said.

As well, council decided to restrict the time allowed for noise from power devices, such as leaf blowers, lawn mowers, grass trimmers and chainsaws, by one extra hour in the morning on weekdays. Starting Sept. 1, weekday noise from these devices will be allowed from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Previously, the time was 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Device noise restrictions on Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays remain unchanged, and noise is allowed from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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