Toronto is looking to roll out 25 new photo radar cameras around the city to help curb the number of fatalities and serious injuries, but critics say much more needs to be done to make city streets as safe as they can be.
In 2020, the city installed 50 of the automated cameras, with two in each ward that get moved to a new location every three to six months.
Research from the Hospital for Sick Children shows there has been a reduction in speeds in areas where the cameras have been installed. These results have driven the push for even more cameras, Coun. Mike Layton told CBC News.
"[We want] to make sure we're having the same positive impact on the safety of our roads at other locations," he said. "Put simply: It works, do more."
In 2021 alone, 58 people died after collisions on Toronto's streets.The cameras are just one part of the city's Vision Zero plan, a strategy that aims to reduce the number of traffic-related deaths to zero. The Infrastructure and Environment Committee will meet to discuss the new cameras on Tuesday. If approved, they will be installed in strategic locations, determined by traffic data, around the city starting in 2023.
Layton said he'd like to see the rollout happen sooner, but it's been delayed to coincide with the introduction of a new automated system that will streamline the lengthy paperwork process for provincial enforcement officers — and prevent a backlog in the court system.
Research shows a positive impact
SickKids researchers, who looked at the first year of the photo radar program, presented their preliminary findings in August 2021. They found an overall reduction in speeding, as well as a reduction in excess speeds for cars that were found travelling faster than the legal limit.
For instance, the number of speeding vehicles in 40 km/h zones dropped from 49 per cent to 28, according to a city news release at the time. Similarly, 30 km/h zones saw a drop from 55 per cent to 44.
The report also indicated that average excess speed was reduced by 12 km/h in 40 km/hr zones and by three km/h in 30 km/h zones.
The city also reported a total of 227,322 speeding tickets issued by the cameras in that first-year period.
But Layton wants to make it clear that this isn't about the city making a profit. It's about public safety.
"The fines are essentially paying for the cameras," he said. "The money is the incentive for people to stop practising dangerous behaviour like speeding."
Photo radar isn't a 'golden ticket,' expert says
While some advocates welcome the new cameras, they also want more done to meet the city's Vision Zero goal sooner.
Matti Siemiatycki, director of the University of Toronto's Infrastructure Institute, said "photo radar in and of itself will not be the golden ticket that leads us to a Vision Zero."
"Twenty-five cameras is not going to be the policy intervention that takes us all the way there."
Siemiatycki argued for a more concentrated plan of action, rather than the incremental changes that have historically been implemented by the city.
For the Avenue Road Safety Coalition's Albert Koehl, one of those concentrated measures involves completely rethinking the way Toronto's roads are laid out and built.
"We can put ... speed cameras up across the city," he said. "But in the longer term, what we really need is a road redesign."
His coalition has been calling for the city to reduce the number of traffic lanes on Avenue Road, from six to four. It's a strategy he'd like to see implemented on many of the city's busier streets.
Koehl noted the city has historically invested a lot of money in creating roads that were meant to move cars as quickly as possible, often at the expense of pedestrians' and cyclists' safety.
"Surely, if we can find $2 billion to rebuild the Gardiner Expressway, we can find some [money to redesign] roads, such as Parkside, such as Avenue Road, such as O'Connor, all places where people have been killed recently."