Torontonians open to reducing speed limits, reluctant to remove traffic lanes
2018 saw an increase in overall pedestrian deaths and a number of actions to address this problem have been put forward, the most prominent being Vision Zero. To better understand where the public stands and how they want it resolved, Campaign Research has conducted a study among 928 residents of Toronto, investigating residents’ views on the rise of traffic fatalities and how they want the issue resolved.
Respondents were aware of the increase in traffic-related deaths. A majority (54%) believed that they had gone up over the last year, about a third believed that they stayed about the same (30%) and almost no one saw a decrease (3%), with the remaining 13% being unsure. Baby boomer males (64%) and females (69%) were the most likely to believe that the number of traffic deaths had increased, while millennial males (8%) and females (7%) were more likely to think that the number of deaths had decreased.
Respondents were asked if they were aware of Vision Zero, the cities five-year road safety plan to reduce the number of traffic-related fatalities in Toronto. Even with prompting, only a minority (38%) had heard of Vision Zero. Millennial males were the only demographic group where a majority had heard of the plan (56%), with awareness being the lowest among Gen-X females (27%). Perception also varied by region, with residents of Toronto East York being the most aware (42%) and the residents of Scarborough being the least (29%).
Overall familiarity with the program was low, with 68% of Torontonian’s unfamiliar and half of respondents (49%) stating that they were very unfamiliar with the plan. Familiarity varied by voting intent with provincial New Democratic voters being the most aware (41%), with provincial Liberal (35%) and Progressive Conservative voters (33%) being less so.
Respondents were asked to express support or opposition to six proposed methods of lowering the overall number of traffic-related fatalities in Toronto. While all the proposals enjoyed majority support, requiring trucks to have side guards was the most popular (88%), followed by technology-based traffic enforcement (77%) and additional traffic signs (77%). The least popular measure was lowering speed limits with 61% supporting and 39% opposed.
Respondents were explicitly asked about lowering speed limits, as a way of reducing overall traffic fatalities. Opinions changed moderately with 58% supporting the measure, 35% opposing the action and 7% undecided. Additional context was provided on the issue of lowering speed limits concerning the current situation in Scarborough with the following provided description:
“43% of the city’s “mid-block” pedestrian fatalities occurred in Scarborough. “Mid Block” is defined as anywhere along the road that is between intersections where a pedestrian crosses the road despite there not being a crosswalk. 90% of the fatalities in Scarborough occurred in the wider open roads (arterials) that have few traffic signals or pedestrian crosswalk infrastructure.”
While this context provided a modest increase in support for reducing speed limits (63%), more importantly, there was a decrease in opposition to the proposal to 26%.
Removing lanes of traffic to expand the number of separated bicycle lanes has also been proposed as a way of reducing traffic fatalities. Upon being asked if it was ever alright to remove traffic lanes, a third (32%) felt that removing them must always be avoided. A plurality (34%) believed that it was acceptable so long as it improved bus and streetcar service and only 12% of respondents supported building bike lanes at the cost of removing lanes of traffic.
Finally, respondents were asked about two major bike lane initiatives, the Bloor Street bike lanes, and the Transform Yonge Project. Responses to the Bloor Street bike lanes were mixed with a similar number supporting (38%) and opposing (37%) their extension to Danforth in the east and Etobicoke in the west, with the remaining 25% being unsure.
On the issue of removing car lanes from Yonge Street, opinions were more conclusive with 59% opposing the removal of car lanes from Yonge Street, instead preferring that bike lanes be built on the parallel street Beecroft, with a mere 23% supporting their removal and the balance being undecided (18%).
”It is clear that Torontonian see traffic related fatalities as a major issue and want action taken. Torontonian’s are open to the idea of reducing speed limits, but are more keen on other measures such as requiring trucks to have guards on the side and improving technology based traffic enforcement.” said Eli Yufest, CEO of Campaign Research Inc
This online study was conducted by Campaign Research between February 27 to March 1 through an online survey of 928 randomly selected Toronto residents, who are members of an online panel and were provided with various incentives to respond. The panelists were selected to reflect Toronto’s age, gender and regional distribution in line with 2016 Statistics Canada census data. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size would have an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 3.2%, 19 times out of 20.
The results have been weighted by education, age, gender, and region to match Toronto’s population according to 2016 Census data. Certain areas or groups may be oversampled but have been weighted to reflect their proportion of Toronto’s population. This is to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of Toronto. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.
The following screening question was asked in order to determine eligibility for participation in the study
"Are you 18 years of age or older and eligible to vote in federal elections?"