Article from the Toronto Sun, Thursday, October 15, 2009
Drivers of Toronto, arise. You have nothing to lose but your migraines.
At last! A rebellion against the headache that is our traffic light system.
Unless you are dead or from Ottawa, or you are a cyclist or a city councillor, you know what I mean.
"Frustrating," fumes Ian Chamandy, creator of Toronto Says STOP! -- a Facebook protest against out-of-sync lights.
Says Chamandy: "I've driven in cities around the world. They may have congestion -- but their traffic lights don't compound the problem.
"Drive up Saint-Laurent or Saint-Denis in Montreal, or Fifth Ave. in Manhattan, and you can see lights turning green ahead of you.
"As long as you stick to the speed limit, you keep moving. Toronto is the only city where they work at making you stop at every light. It can't be accidental." Amen, brother Ian. I've bellyached about out-of-sync lights for years.
Last time I asked City Hall, urban traffic manager Bruce Zvaniga told me the focus was transit, not cars.
Zvaniga and his Orcs are installing TransSuite lights, which wait on green while buses and streetcars pick up passengers -- and to hell with cars idling at the cross road. Not to mention, they screw up all synchronicity up and down the street.
Now I've learned cyclists, too, can hijack traffic lights.
I hesitate to explain how, or they'll all do it. But look for three small dots on the pavement where bicycle lanes meet traffic lights. Stop your bike on those dots. A sensor reads you. Abracadabra!
The light turns green.
Just for fun, park your bike there all day -- and drive drivers nuts.
Not that we aren't wacko already.
Drive up University Ave. Bad news is you'll hit every red. Good news is that when the frustration triggers a massive coronary, there's a row of hospitals right there.
Lakeshore. Eglinton. Dundas. The Queensway. Bloor. Ossington. Dufferin. Steeles. Show me any major street in this town and I'll show you a red-light district.
I reach Chamandy in his car. "Just coming up to King St.," he says. "Whoa, here comes another red light, 4-3-2-1. There it is. (Sigh). Four more lights to the Gardiner."
Chamandy, a business adviser who helped develop CITY-TV's Speakers Corner, has done informal tests on T.O. roads for 20 years.
"I can't find a single street where the lights are co-ordinated to turn green."
Me neither. Why? Simple. It's another way for our anti-car politicians to punish drivers.
In two years, every corner in the city will have those sadistic TransSuite signals.
TTC bosses insisted. They could have followed York Region's example -- transit friendly, but better balanced, lights.
But no. Not in Hogtown. Drivers, suck it up.
"It's a political decision," chief traffic lights engineer Raj Bissessar tells me. "Cars are at the very bottom of the priority list."
Another thing. Nine (9) engineers and technicians oversee Toronto's 2,200 sets of traffic lights.
Lights should be reset to new flows every three to five years, Bissessar tells me. "Some streets we haven't been back over in the longest while, 10 years or more."
No wonder it's so hard to catch a green in this town.
And it's not just a pain in the rear. A 2006 Transport Canada study says congestion in Toronto costs $1.6 billion a year in gas, lost work hours and pollution -- and you know red lights are major culprits.
Enough, already. Toronto Says STOP! is looking for friends on Facebook.
Chamandy aims for 50,000 members, to make stoplights an issue in next fall's election.
"It blows me away that we have 100s of thousands of car commuters every day -- that's 100s of thousands of angry customers -- and nobody does anything about it."
Makes you see red, eh?
MIKE STROBEL'S COLUMN RUNS WEDNESDAY TO FRIDAY, AND SUNDAY. MIKE.STROBEL@SUNMEDIA.CA OR 416-947-2265
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