The big number
the estimated value of tickets issued each month by Toronto’s automatic speed camera on Parkside Drive, based on an average ticket amount of $107.32
It’s not much to look at, but there’s a gray metal box on the side of the road near High Park that — on paper, at least — brings in more than a quarter of a million dollars a month.
Serious. It’s a real high roller of a gray box. Someone should outfit it with a top hat and monocle.
Located on Parkside Drive south of Algonquin Avenue, this box is part of Toronto City Hall’s automated speed enforcement program — aka photo radar.
The Parkside camera has been number one every month since it was installed last April. It was only one of 50 cameras, but it generates about 10 percent of all tickets issued by Fotoradar.
In September, 2,279 tickets were issued on Parkside. A city spokesman told me last week that the average amount for a photo radar violation today is $107.32. In September, fines for tickets issued by the Parkside box totaled approximately $244,582.
Previous months show similar numbers. As of April, the box has averaged 2,601 monthly tickets, which works out to about $279,121 based on the average ticket. Expanding the tally, the Parkside camera was responsible for an estimated $1.7 million in fines by the end of September.
Even if we subtract some money from these estimates to account for fines that are ultimately reduced or not paid, there’s no escaping the simple fact that this Parkside cam is making a ton of money.
City Hall definitely noticed. In a press release last week announcing locations for 25 new still camera cameras, the city confirmed that it will keep the camera at Parkside for a few more months, in contrast to its usual move of rotating all camera locations. The gray box will continue to earn a lot of money for a while.
But that’s bad news.
Do not get me wrong. It’s not bad because I sympathize with drivers who have issued parking tickets, particularly on Parkside Drive, where residents have long been asking drivers to slow down and two people were killed in a multi-car accident last year.
No, it’s bad because the photo radar program isn’t supposed to work that way. The ultimate goal of the program is not to raise a bunch of money. It aims to make our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
And on Parkside Drive — and other photo radar hotspots past and present — that doesn’t happen.
Parkside remains a high-speed death trap with a highway-like design that does not comply with the 40 km/h speed limit. And infrastructure improvements to reduce speeds and improve the walking and cycling experience are still a long way off.
Aside from some temporary tweaks like the addition of digital signs that show drivers exactly how fast they’re going, City Hall’s major effort so far this summer has been to conduct a two-month public survey to identify “concerns and priorities,” on the park side . It will now take you a few months to compile the results of this survey into a report.
This winter, according to the project’s website, it’s time for action. And by “action” I mean, of course, a community consultation. And also a survey. If all goes well, construction might get rolling a few months later — at least two years after Coun requests improvements. Gord Perks, the local representative.
However, don’t expect big changes. The full reconstruction of the street, according to the city, is “expected to take place in more than 10 years”.
When road safety is a priority, it is not reflected in the timelines for projects like this.
And in the meantime, the status quo threatens to undermine the entire photo radar program. The provincial government’s earlier experience of using photoradar on highways in the 1990s failed – and became politically toxic – after many drivers concluded it was more a money grab than a serious attempt to improve safety.
To avoid the same fate, Toronto should work aggressively to reduce the number of tickets issued, using data to identify speeding hotspots and making rapid infrastructure changes on roads to slow speeds.
But City Hall still moves much slower than Toronto traffic. If Mayor John Tory and the City Council maintain this rapid pace of infrastructure improvements – and the high rate of photo radar fees – drivers will inevitably be screaming “steal money” again. The worst part? You will be right.
Big number: $279,121, the estimated value of tickets issued each month by Toronto’s automatic speed camera on Parkside Drive, based on an average ticket amount of $107.32