Toronto is first Ontario city to deploy Traffic Agents at intersections
Today, the City of Toronto is officially launching the new Traffic Agents program which will help keep people moving through 11 of Toronto’s busiest intersections while also improving safety for pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders and drivers.
You may have seen glimpses of this with police presence while walking downtown over the past year, but now the City is rolling out the program at numerous intersections infamous for inefficient traffic flow, and safety concerns.
During a pilot study by the City of Toronto, there was an approximately 90 per cent reduction in blocked intersections and an approximately 70 per cent reduction in blockage of intersections by pedestrians when paid duty police officers were present and active.
Mayor John Tory has championed the establishment of this program, successfully secured the necessary permissions from the province, and Toronto is now the first city in Ontario to deploy Traffic Agents on its streets.
“Traffic Agents will make a difference on our streets,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory. “These agents have been proven as an effective way to keep traffic moving by ensuring motorists, cyclists and pedestrians comply with the traffic signals; by helping reduce potential collisions; and by reducing the blocking of intersections. I look forward to seeing the new agents actively managing traffic at key locations in the city.”
In total, 16 full-time traffic agents have been hired and will be available to actively manage intersections during peak morning and afternoon rush hour periods.
There are 11 key intersections initially identified for traffic agents to manage. These locations have been prioritized by City staff using traffic data and trends:
- Front Street West and Bay Street
- Front Street West and Simcoe Street
- Front Street West and University Avenue/York Street
- Adelaide Street West and University Avenue
- Adelaide Street East and Jarvis Street
- Queen Street West and Bay Street
- Wellington Street West and Simcoe Street
- Lower Jarvis Street and Lake Shore Boulevard East
- York Street and Gardiner Expressway (on-ramp)
- Bloor Street West and Bay Street
- Bay Street and Richmond Street West
Traffic agents will be placed where they are needed most based on evolving traffic demands and the need to improve safety and congestion. As the program evolves, and potentially expands, it’s expected that other locations across the city will be identified and included. One or two agents will be deployed to a single location depending on the size and complexity of an intersection.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, City staff continue to observe increasing traffic volumes as well as new peak traffic times and deploying traffic agents now will help move people and improve road safety at intersections.
Actively managing intersections is a proven and effective way to keep traffic moving by ensuring all road users comply with the traffic signals, helping to reduce potential collisions and reducing occurrences when vehicles are stopped in the intersection after the signal has changed which prevents on-coming traffic from travelling through (known as ‘blocking the box’).
Under the Province’s Highway Traffic Act, only police officers are allowed to manage traffic at signalized intersections in Ontario. Mayor Tory, the Toronto Police Services Board, the City and the Toronto Police Service worked with the Province to ensure traffic agents could receive special constable designation and make this program possible.
The program comprises 16 full-time Traffic Agents, two supervisors and a program manager to manage and run the operations. The process for hiring full-time traffic agents was extensive including interviews, detailed police background checks, and comprehensive in-class and in-field training – and took several months to complete.
The City of Toronto Traffic Agents Program is a congestion management strategy that supports the actions in the proposed MoveTO plan as well as Toronto’s Vision Zero road safety plan. The plan also supports the Toronto Police Service’s Action Plan: The Way Forward.