City of Toronto expands Traffic Agents program to increase road safety and keep traffic moving

2023 April 18

The City of Toronto is expanding its Traffic Agents Program to increase road safety and better manage traffic congestion.

A total of 30 Traffic Agents are budgeted to be deployed this year, with the first wave of new employees currently being deployed to critical intersections across Toronto.

The City’s Traffic Agents program is a congestion management strategy that places Traffic Agents employed by the City at key intersections during the morning and afternoon peak traffic periods. Traffic Agents ensure all road users comply with traffic laws and regulations, helping to reduce congestion and increase road safety. They also play a crucial role in ensuring roads are clear for emergency services and public transit.

As Special Constables, Traffic Agents:

  • ensure people driving obey traffic laws, such as speed limits, stop signs, and traffic signals and prevent people from stopping to pick up or drop off passengers along key intersection approaches
  • prevent vehicles from stopping in the intersection after the signal has changed, which prevents on-coming traffic from travelling through (known as “blocking the box”)
  • stop pedestrians from crossing the intersection once the pedestrian signal starts displaying the red hand
  • ensure people cycling are following the rules of the road
  • monitor parking at critical locations to maintain an efficient traffic flow

In addition to ensuring the orderly movement of traffic, Traffic Agents assist with traffic management during events or road closures.

The 14 Traffic Agents – including 11 new employees – will be placed where they are needed most based on evolving traffic demands and the need to improve safety and congestion. One or two agents will be deployed to a single location depending on the size and complexity of an intersection.

All Traffic Agents will currently be deployed to the following priority locations:

  • 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
  • Spadina Avenue and Lake Shore Boulevard West
  • Yonge Street and Lake Shore Boulevard
  • Bremner Boulevard and York Street
  • Eglinton Avenue West and Allen Road
  • Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue

City staff will continue to observe traffic volumes and peak traffic times and will deploy Traffic Agents to other locations accordingly.

The City is in the process of hiring additional Traffic Agents to reach the full approved complement for 2023 and they will be trained and deployed as quickly as possible.

The Traffic Agent program was successfully piloted in 2016. During the pilot period, there was at least a 90 per cent reduction in blocked intersections and a 70 per cent reduction in blockage of intersections by pedestrians.

To help substantially increase the City’s ability to manage traffic this spring and summer, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) is also supporting the Traffic Agents program on a six-month pilot basis by leveraging Police and Special Constables to be assigned to strategic intersections during peak traffic periods. Up to 20 Special Constables and Police Constables per day can find staff locations on a call-back basis during rush hour, with some assignments on weekends. On-duty resources will not be used for the pilot project.

Current TPS members with Special Constable designation with specific Highway Traffic Act training in traffic direction have the authority and ability to perform traffic direction assignments. Traffic direction is a component of Special Constable new hires, including in-class and practical training.

The Traffic Agents program is one of the many tactics included in MoveTO. This action plan aims to help manage congestion and build a more resilient, modern and safe transportation system. Aligned with the City’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plan and the Goods Movement Strategy, MoveTO uses piloted and proven techniques and technologies to manage vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist traffic along key corridors and intersections in Toronto.

More information is available on the City’s Traffic Agents webpage:

The City continues to implement the various actions of the MoveTO plan as travel demand in Toronto continues to rise in tandem with transit expansion and population and economic growth. These actions include:

  • Smart traffic signals: The City has installed 59 smart traffic signals since 2020 and aims to install an additional 30 this year, including along Lake Shore Boulevard, to support the upcoming construction work for Ontario Line. These smart traffic signals automatically adjust signal timing based on actual traffic demand and respond to varying volumes and unpredictable traffic patterns.
  • Intelligent Intersections: The Intelligent Intersections program is a set of technologies that allow intersections to improve the safety of pedestrians and people cycling, forming the backbone of a modern multi-modal data and analytics system. This high-level, real-time data gives City staff greater resolution when applying signal timing strategies that keep transit and vehicle traffic moving along major corridors while minimizing delays and improving safety through advanced green implementations. Thirty intersections have been outfitted to date and the City aims to outfit an additional 80 intersections in 2023.
  • Advanced Transit Signal Priority (ATSP):  The ATSP system detects buses running behind schedule and extends green times when necessary. Critical construction on major surface transit routes would often result in transit have to be diverted from typical routes. The ATSP particularly helps with these scenarios by minimizing delays for transit users. The City and the TTC have been working on the various back-end activities required for this pilot. Once completed, the City will activate this system on a route consisting of 10 signalized intersections.
  • The Construction Hubs Program: The City has recently expanded the Construction Hubs Program and there are now six active Construction Hubs at Yonge-Eglinton, Downtown, East Harbour, Lake Shore East, Lake Shore West and Liberty Village. The Construction Hubs program helps manage traffic and reduce congestion caused by construction around work zones, improves communication with the local community and keeps people safe.

With a full roster of spring and summer events around the corner, the City is also improving traffic flow around major venues in Toronto. City staff are working closely with MLSE, Rogers and other partners to establish Event Traffic Management Zones that comprise major venue blocks such as the Rogers Centre, Scotiabank Arena, the CN Tower and Exhibition Place grounds. These zones will feature increased traffic management support from Traffic Agents, traffic control personnel, temporary traffic signal timing changes and portable variable message signs to manage the flow of event attendees and ensure a better flow of non-event traffic in the area.