Toronto Star's View: Let Ontario cities decide if...
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Feb 23, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Toronto Star's View: Let Ontario cities decide if they want photo radar

Toronto Mayor John Tory is right to ask Premier Kathleen Wynne for authority to deploy photo radar cameras

OurWindsor.Ca

Photo radar is set for a comeback in Ontario – and it’s about time. More than 20 years after being axed by then-premier Mike Harris, the concept of using cameras to catch traffic scofflaws is undergoing a welcome revival.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has formally asked Premier Kathleen Wynne to amend provincial law and give Canada’s largest city the right to deploy traffic management technology such as photo radar. Unlike in the past, when provincial officials were quick to dismiss the likelihood of any such change, Wynne appeared receptive. And not just in response to Toronto’s request, but for cities in general.

“If there are other municipalities that are going to be asking the same question, we’re open to that,” Wynne told reporters on Monday.

Even more surprising was the response from Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown. He welcomed discussion of the issue and kept his options open, noting that “the reality is municipalities are desperately looking at new revenue mechanisms because of underfunding.”

That’s a welcome departure from the rank partisanship that has tainted discussion of photo radar for years after Harris’s Tory government blocked use of this approach to trapping highway speeders back in 1995.

Times have changed, technology has evolved, and so have public attitudes. Ontarians don’t seem as adamantly opposed to an unblinking system that mechanically watches for law-breakers and automatically issues tickets.

Indeed, an excellent case can be made for adopting this kind of technology. It makes for safer streets by inhibiting bad drivers who are prone to speeding and committing other traffic violations. And photo radar works far more efficiently than stationing a police officer at a dangerous intersection or stretch of road.

More offenders end up punished. And traffic is allowed to move unimpeded instead of having a lane blocked by a police car and by motorists pulled over to be given a ticket. That’s a significant consideration in gridlocked Toronto.

Photo radar could also cut costs by allowing the city to shift some uniformed staff from traffic duty to more demanding work. “This will allow for more efficient deployment of expensive, highly trained police officers,” said Tory.

One would expect smarter deployment to result in fewer such staff. That would help take some of the pressure out of Toronto’s ballooning police budget, now soaring beyond $1 billion. It would be especially effective if it is coupled with another measure requested by Tory: changing the Highway Traffic Act so that lower-paid civilians are allowed to direct traffic and issue tickets. It’s important that Queen’s Park act on that request, too.

Finally, photo radar would boost revenue flowing to cash-strapped cities by holding more rule-breakers to account for violating the traffic laws. Those complaining of a government “cash grab” can keep Big Brother from reaching into their pocket simply by obeying the rules.

Toronto already deploys 77 red light cameras to punish reckless motorists who drive through intersections when they shouldn’t, so the concept of using technology to catch lawbreakers automatically is already well established. These cameras have resulted in a significant drop in deaths and personal injuries, according to the city’s website.

Tory envisions using high tech “traffic management” gear to do more than just give speeders a comeuppance. It could also be employed, for example, to target drivers making illegal left-hand turns and boost safety in school zones.

In short, Tory is asking for provincial permission to use reliable, effective, cost-efficient technology that will make Toronto’s streets safer and improve traffic flow. Queen’s Park should listen and make changes to the law in a timely manner.

This city’s streets are camera-ready.

Toronto Star

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