Motorists will have to slow down by 10 kilometres an hour this September on residential streets throughout the Toronto and East York Community Council area.
That was the unanimous decision from the downtown-area community council following a special meeting June 22. Under the City of Toronto Act, the community council has the power to make such decision without appeal to the larger city council, but this is the first time a community council has made such a sweeping decision affecting so many neighbourhoods at once.
It means that Toronto will spend $1.1 million to change signs and speed rules on 387.1 kilometres of local roads, with about 4,450 new signs.
The community council did so against the advice of the city’s head of Transportation Services Stephen Buckley, who said that reducing the speed limit from 40 kilometres an hour to 30 kilometres an hour might not be effective in reducing speed.
But council sided with a coroner’s report on pedestrian deaths and recommendations from the city’s board of health, arguing that the 10 k.p.h. difference can make a tremendous difference when a car hits a pedestrian or cyclist. At 30 kilometres an hour, there is an excellent chance of survival with relatively minor injuries. At 40 or 50 kilometres an hour, death is much more likely.
St. Pauls Councillor Josh Matlow moved the motion to simply go ahead with the slow-down.
“We’re not expecting this is going to solve all ills,” said Matlow. “It’s not going to stop people from speeding, but it’s going to contribute. We have to take every step we can to protect our communities.”
Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks moved the amendment requiring the city to do the change quickly — in spite of the fact that transportation staff said the $1.1 million is not allocated in the 2015 budget.
“I do want to point out that the transportation department was one of the few departments that overspent last year,” said Perks, who noted that transportation was $4 million over budget then.
“So if they by some miracle got all of this done by the end of December it wouldn’t be larger than the variance they had last year.”
Prior to this meeting, the only way that a residential street could have its speed limit lowered below 40 kilometres an hour was to have speed humps installed — which requires a process that most councillors agreed was too cumbersome and slow.
But the implementation of the project could be slowed down by simple budget matters, with the transportation department spending what money it has in 2015 and bringing the remainder of the program to Toronto Council for its 2016 budget allocation.