How do you solve a problem like congestion?

Here are four things that I know about congestion in Toronto:

  • First, congestion is a problem. We hear over and over again that billions of dollars are lost annually as a result. Whether that number is true or not, we can certainly see that it exists.  
  • Second, congestion is created/worsened by vehicles that block traffic lanes regardless of posted no parking/standing/stopping signs.
  • Third, a lot of these vehicles are either delivery trucks or associated with our booming construction industry.
  • Finally, as much as our politicians make noise about the cost of congestion and vow to 'keep Toronto moving', this problem isn't getting any better.

Press conferences and photo ops are lovely, but if we really want to make a dent in this problem, it's time to start taking action. Real action, that is, beyond the occasional blitz.

But here's the thing — even if Toronto Parking Enforcement were given a mandate to get serious about writing these tickets, the delivery firms and contractors are conditioned to treat them as just a cost of doing business. Sometimes, they pay them. Other times, they get them tossed in court or find a way to have them cancelled. And at no time does the behaviour change.

So, what to do, Sean? What's your solution? Well, since you asked…

There's this idea that I've been advocating for years when it comes to suspensions in sports. A hockey team dresses 18 skaters for each game. If one of those players goes and plows someone into the boards from behind, they might get kicked out of the game, possibly fined, and perhaps even suspended for a handful of games. That hurts their team, since they lose access to that player, but it's a limited impact because they just slot another player into that spot in the lineup.

What if, instead, they didn't get to replace that player in the lineup? What if for those four games the player's suspended, the team was only allowed to dress 17 skaters? Maybe not a big deal for one game, but it's going to take a toll on everyone else if they have to pick up the slack over a longer period of time. Peer pressure starts to come into play. The pain of the infraction is being felt more broadly, and the player's teammates and their coach are likely to suggest strongly that they not play like such an idiot in the future.

What does this have to do with parking? Well, if ticketing the people directly committing the infractions isn't achieving the desired effect, maybe it's time to give Toronto Parking Enforcement and bylaw enforcement officers the power to punish the people benefitting from the misbehaviour.

Example 1: Every condo construction project in the city goes through a lengthy approval process, full of zoning variances and building permits and site plans. Implicit in all that is that while construction is ongoing, the builder is going to conform to all applicable laws; noise bylaws, for example. Violate those laws and you'll get a warning or a fine (not nearly often enough, of course, but that's a separate diatribe). So why doesn't that obligation to obey the law extend beyond the building site itself, to the people who are servicing the project? If the dump trucks are going to line up and block Yonge Street during rush hour while they wait their turn to get on site, then write the driver a ticket, sure. But write the contractor one, too. Heck, write the developer one.

Or, and bear with me here, maybe shut the site down for the day. And if it happens again, shut the site down for two days, and so on.

No, I'm not even kidding. Do it just once, and it'd send shockwaves through the development community. You don't have to play the big club every round — it's enough for them just to know it's in your bag.

Example 2: Every weekday, there are trucks lined up along Adelaide Street West during morning rush hour, waiting to get into the loading docks at First Canadian Place. They hit the daily double, because they're both illegally stopped in general and they're blocking the bike lane. Again, write the driver a ticket, sure. But let's try something stronger. Take a big-ass tow truck, hook it up, and impound the truck. And while you're at it, ticket the businesses to which they're delivering. Ticket the building property management company.

Or, and again, bear with me here — why not force the building to keep their loading dock closed during the hours when it's illegal to have the trucks staging outside? Under the current setup, the building is basically facilitating the delivery companies breaking the law.

It's simple, really. If we truly believe that congestion is a problem, then we need new ways to solve it, 'cause the current ones aren't cutting it. And if we're all suffering these huge financial costs due to lost time and productivity, then maybe we need to start offsetting those costs out of the pockets of the people who are benefitting from the status quo.