Photo radar is not expected to hit Toronto streets until spring, thanks to an Ontario government requirement that drivers get lots of notice before the devices start snapping speeders and triggering tickets.
The Star revealed Friday that provincial regulations long sought by Toronto and other municipalities to allow use of “automated speed enforcement” in school and community safety zones, would come into effect Sunday.
On Monday, Toronto officials got the fine print, including a requirement that municipalities seeking to use the technology post signs at each location warning that photo radar is coming, for 90 days before the device is used to issue Highway Traffic Act speeding tickets.
The signs, designed by the province, must remain, and can only be placed in photo radar locations.
Mayor John Tory, who first asked Premier Doug Ford’s predecessor Kathleen Wynne for the change in 2016, said in a statement if he had his way the devices, part of the city’s Vision Zero plan to slow down drivers and eliminate pedestrian and cyclist deaths, would be working now.
“If the city had the ability to establish this process, these cameras would have been operating on our streets and keeping children and seniors safe months, if not years ago,” Tory said in a statement. “I will be doing everything I can to avoid any further delays to getting automated speed enforcement in locations across the city.”
The mayor, under fire with police Chief Mark Saunders from some safety advocates over road deaths and revelations about a steep drop in police traffic enforcement, noted three senior Toronto pedestrians were killed in the past week.
They include a hit-and-run where other drivers “callously drove around a 77-year-old woman’s body after the collision without stopping,” Tory said, citing police reports.
City council in June approved a plan that will see 50 photo radar cameras across the city — two in each ward, in school and community safety zones identified with data. Toronto is also doubling its red light cameras which already issue automatic tickets to motorists who run stop lights.
The government led by Ford, who as a Toronto city councillor railed against “the war on the car,” noted that photo radar will not be allowed on provincial highways. The technology caught Ontario highway drivers in 1994-95 but was scrapped amid public complaints and political controversy.
On Monday at Queen’s Park, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney told reporters: “Municipalities have been asking for automated speed enforcement for some time now.
“We want to make sure municipalities have the tools they need if they wish to bring in automated speed enforcement in designated community safety zones and in school zones.”
Toronto isn’t alone in itching to use the technology. Mississauga, Ottawa and London have also expressed interest amid mounting residents’ concerns about dangerous drivers.
MPP Vijay Thanigasalam, Mulroney’s parliamentary secretary, will review municipalities’ photo radar use in six months to ensure it is being employed properly to achieve safety goals.
Alberta, meanwhile, is freezing photo radar use to ensure municipalities are not using it as a cash cow. The government there announced last week that the freeze could last two years.
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Last February,Alberta released a third-party report that revealed photo radar was used by 27 municipalities and generated $220 million a year in revenue, but reduced collisions by only 1.4 per cent.
Photo radar there is no longer allowed at spots where speed limits change quickly, called transition zones, or on high-speed, multi-lane highways unless there is documented proof of safety concerns.