The Ministry of Transportation is currently looking for feedback on regulations about the use of display screens and hand-held devices, such as two-way radios. Currently certain sectors are exempted from rules against using and holding hand-held devices while driving, such as public employees (eg. bus drivers), commercial drivers and amateur radio operators. However, these exemptions are set to expire on January 1, 2018.
The Ministry is currently exploring three options to address the expiry of these exemptions:
Extend the exemption for hand-held use of two-way radios for an additional seven years.
Make the exemption permanent.
Allow the exemption to expire (making hand-held use of devices illegal and requiring all currently exempted drivers to use hands-free alternatives only).
Find our more about this proposal, or comment here.
Bill 65, the Safer School Zones Act, passed second reading this week and was referred to the Standing Committee on General Government. Amongst other things, the bill would allow municipalities to use photo radar (automated speed-enforcement systems) in school and community safety zones. It would also give municipalities the ability to reduce the speed limits in those zones, and streamline the approval process for red-light cameras.
Today the Government of Ontario announced that it won’t approve the City of Toronto’s plan to use road tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway. The City’s plan was designed to generate additional revenue, control gridlock, and fund transit.
According to the Premier, “the conditions are not right” for road tolls. As an alternative, the province also announced today that it would increase gas tax funding for municipalities. However, City of Toronto Mayor John Tory says that the gas tax increase will not replace the revenue that would have been generated by the City’s proposed road tolls. While increased gas tax funding will net the City an addition $170 million per year, road tolls were expected to generate $200 million.
The province announced today that it is going to increase gas tax funding for the 100 cities and towns across the province that use this type of financing for their transit systems. Funding will increase initially from 2.0 cents in 2018-19, to 2.5 cents per litre in 2019-20, and then again to 3 cents in 2020-21, and finally to 4 cents in 2021-22.
Under a new regulation, currently being considered by the Ministry of Transportation, municipalities will gain the power to deny licence plates to drivers with unpaid speeding tickets. The change, part of the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act, originally passed in 2015, would apply licence plate denial retroactively to all outstanding driving-related fines over the last seven years. According to the government municipalities and the province are collectively owed $1.4 million in unpaid fines for provincial offences.
Yesterday Ontario Auditor General (AG) Bonnie Lysyk released her 2016 annual report. According to the AG the theme of this year’s report is government contractor’s and suppliers being rewarded with additional business despite poor performance. The report, which covers two full volumes and 1,063 pages, highlights crumbling highways, shoddy transit contractors, the eHealth medical records program, and cap-and-trade. Key findings from the report include:
More than $1 billion is being spent annually on employment programs without sufficient information about where more skilled workers are needed
Below standard asphalt being used on major highways, leading to premature repairs
Approximately $8 billion spent on the eHealth program and other electronic medical records programs over the past 14 years, despite unsatisfactory results
The potential that Ontario’s cap-and-trade program will do more to reduce emissions in California than in Ontario
Insufficient oversight of physical billing
A two-thirds increase in government advertising
Youth mental health agencies facing a deluge of 50% more cases of hospitalization in recent years, without an analysis being done by the government about the causes
An increase of 21% in the number of mental health cases in hospital emergency rooms
Patients waiting 37 hours in emergency wards for hospital beds and 23 hours for intensive care beds
New polling shows that support for the use of road tolls in the GTHA is deeply divided, with drivers the least supportive and cyclists the most supportive. Last week City of Toronto Mayor John Tory outlined his support for using road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, setting off a debate amongst City of Toronto councillors and residents. According to the data, published by Forum Research, 46% of respondents approved of the use of tolls, while 45% disapproved, and 9% were unsure.
Do you approve or disapprove of road tolls?
Support seems to be evenly split across age groups. Only those in the 45-54 age demographic showed any deviation, being approximately 10% less likely to support road tolls than respondents in other demographics.
Support for tolls, by age
There is a steep divide, however, based on the mode of transportation that respondents use. Those who drive were more likely to be opposed to tolls, while those who use other forms of transportation, especially bikes, were more likely to be supportive.
The government of Ontario has approved Canada’s first pilot program for automated vehicles (driverless cars). The pilot, which will be led by the University of Waterloo, BlackBerry QNX and the Erwin Hymer Group, was made possible by a new regulatory framework which came into effect in Ontario on January 1 2016. The government believes that automated vehicles have the potential to improve road safety and fuel efficiency will reducing traffic congestion and lowering the province’s greenhouse gas emissions.
A new article, published by the CD Howe Institute, explores how municipalities can use technology (such as apps) to free up more parking, reduce parking costs for most people, but still generate greater revenue. According to the article, parking apps can allow municipalities to:
…adjust parking prices based on the given demand and supply of parking spots, thus enabling smarter parking pricing. Smarter prices could lead to more available parking, a lower average price of parking, less congestion, and more revenue for the city.
The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is conducting consultations on its proposed cycling strategy. The strategy, which is a part of the government’s broader Climate Change Action Plan, is organized around five themes:
Designing healthy, active, and prosperous communities
Improving cycling infrastructure
Making highways and streets safer
Promoting cycling awareness
Increasing cycling tourism
The government believes that increasing the number of cyclists in Ontario carries a number of benefits, from public health to environmental sustainability and economic development. Find out more about this consultation here, or review the government’s Cycling Strategy Action Plan.