Speed Limit Reductions
As part of its Vision Zero Road Safety Plan, the City of Toronto is currently reducing speed limits in an effort to curb speeding and minimize traffic-related fatalities on Toronto roads.
Higher speeds contribute to higher risk of serious injuries and fatalities by reducing driver reaction time, increasing the vehicle stopping distance, and inflicting more severe blunt force trauma on victims upon impact.
Higher speeds contribute to a higher risk of serious injuries and fatalities in three ways:
- Higher driving speeds reduce drivers’ field of vision as well as peripheral vision and consequently, situational awareness, which is crucial for anticipating and reacting to unexpected events or sudden changes in road conditions.
- The higher the speed, the greater the stopping distance required when braking, and as a result, the increased risk of a collision.
- Should a collision occur, an impact at higher speeds inflicts more severe blunt force trauma on victims as more kinetic energy must be absorbed. The effect is most pronounced for vulnerable road users who do not have protection.
The table below shows the rate of killed and serious injury (KSI) collisions in each Community Council area per 100 km of roadway between 2014 and 2018 by road classification. The overrepresentation of KSIs on arterial and collector roads has informed the prioritization methodology of the Speed Management Strategy.
|(2014–2018) Killed and Serious Injuries (KSI) by Road Class per 100 km|
|Road Class||Scarborough||North York||Toronto and East York||Etobicoke York||Overall|
The City’s Speed Management Strategy aims to reduce the number of traffic-related injuries and fatalities associated with speeding through short and long-term measures, which include revised speed limit setting practices, road design improvements, automated speed enforcement, enhanced police enforcement, proactive deployment of Watch Your Speed signs, and public education and engagement campaigns.
Speed limit reduction is considered a shorter term initiative that can be implemented quickly but is not as effective as some of the longer term initiatives such as modifying the design of the roadway, which take several years to plan, program, design and implement.
More details about the City of Toronto’s Speed Management Strategy are in the June 2016 Vision Zero 2.0 – Road Safety Update staff report to City Council.
Considerations of speed limit reductions were made for all minor arterial roads with current speed limits over 50 km/h and all collector roads with current speed limits over 40 km/h. Each segment was evaluated and exceptions to speed limit reductions were made based on the following criteria:
- Sections just off of Highway 401 (typically between on/off ramps),
- Sections through industrial areas,
- Sections with limited number of driveways present and/or very large boulevards with setback sidewalks, or
- Sections with wide, open streetscape.
The criteria is intended to exclude road segments where lower speed limits would be artificially low for the existing road environment and that create significant speed differentials, which would be a safety concern. However, exceptions were not made in the following situations:
- Near schools or where appreciable pedestrian/cycling volumes are expected,
- Locations with history of speed-related collisions, or
- Locations with narrow or missing sidewalks.
In the Vision Zero 2.0 – Road Safety Plan Update report to City Council, staff outlined the plans to reduce speed limits on all local roads that have posted speed limits of 40 km/h or higher to 30 km/hr, with local roads in non-residential areas being an exception.
The table below summarizes the approach to lowering the posted speed limits in arterial, collector and local roads.
|Road Classification||Proposed Change||Process||Implementation|
|Major Arterial||60 km/h to 50km/h||Vision Zero 2.0 Report||2020–2021|
|Minor Arterial||60 km/h to 50km/h||Future reports to appropriate Community Councils by end of 2019||2020–2021|
|Collector||50 km/h to 40km/h||Future reports to appropriate Community Councils by end of 2019||2020–2021|
|Local||50 km/h or 40km/h to 30km/h||Future reports to appropriate Community Council||2021–2026+|
Transportation Services has committed to completing the approved signage changes by the end of December 2019 for the major arterial speed limit reductions approved in June 2019 as part of the Vision Zero 2.0 – Road Safety Plan Update report as long as locations are clear of construction.
The City of Toronto recognizes there remain other arterials that could be further reduced. However, the City will look to these locations to be identified through the collaboration between City Council and the Transportation Services Division where potential reductions can be considered and applied at a case-by-case basis, as appropriate.
You can use the Vision Zero Mapping Tool to see streets where speed limits have been reduced from 50 km/h to 40 km/h (and in some places from 40 km/h to 30 km/h).
You can also view the 2019 speed limit reductions which were approved by City Council for 50 streets in Toronto. Signs will be changed from 70 km/h to 60 km/h, 60 km/h to 50 km/h, and 50 km/h to 40 km/h.
There’s little evidence that the proposed speed limit reductions will impact travel times.
Studies have shown travel time is more dependent on congestion, roadway design and geometry factors than on the posted speed limits. Under medium congestion levels (where traffic is periodically able to travel at or near the speed limit), a lower speed limit may actually reduce overall travel time by allowing a smoother traffic rhythm because lower speeds reduce safe space required between vehicles.
Additionally, unlike in freeway conditions, the average speed for a typical trip is well below the posted speed limits of arterial roadways in the urban road environment
The average speed is more dependent on the nature of stop-and-go traffic as a result of congestion, roadway design and geometry factors than on posted speed limits
The City, alongside the Toronto Police Service (TPS), identify high-risk locations at which traffic enforcement officers can be strategically deployed. Based on collision data, these locations are identified as hot spots for speed-related injuries or areas with a high risk of collisions.
Targeted enforcement in the these locations (usually on arterial, minor arterial and collector roadways) is paired with automated enforcement through red light cameras at high-risk traffic signals and Automated Speed Enforcement in Community Safety Zones near schools.
The City will be continually running an education campaign to inform residents about speed limit reductions in the city. Messages will be featured in out-of-home advertising spaces (bus backs, transit shelters, etc.), print ads, digital ads and social media in addition to radio spots. The below is an example of most recent campaign about speed limit reductions in the city.