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Toronto traffic has reached crisis level, poll data reveal

Toronto traffic has reached the point of a congestion crisis, according to the Toronto Region Board of Trade, whose new numbers warn of a significant impact on the city’s economy.

Data collected for the board by polling firm Ipsos indicate that growing gridlock is prompting a segment of the workforce to consider leaving the GTHA, with 53 per cent of respondents indicating they have contemplated relocating in order to escape congestion.

“It’s mind-boggling to see those kinds of numbers,” Board of Trade president Giles Gherson told CTV Toronto.

“What we’re hearing in general is that it is a crisis. And that it is the priority for a lot of people.”

The statistics suggest significant pressures on the ability of business to maintain both top talent and footprints within the core.

Sixty-two per cent of respondents said they are reluctant to travel to work because of congestion-related delays. Of the age group 18-34, a key talent demographic, 64 per cent have considered moving away, threatening a developing workforce exodus.

Residents, meanwhile, indicate that stifling travel times have forced them to alter their routines and avoid activities that benefit the economy. Forty-two per cent of respondents said they avoid shopping or attending sports or entertainment events because of the traffic; 38 per cent refrain from dining out, and 31 per cent avoid visiting family and friends.

The change in consumer behavior signals possible losses in both revenue and jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors, stalling the downtown’s recovery and economic growth more broadly.

Forty-six per cent of drivers reported that their commutes take longer today than a year ago, and 62 per cent are reluctant to travel to work because of it, counter to a growing employer attempt to bring workers back into the office three or more days a week.

The majority of respondents cited construction as the main cause of congestion, with three-quarters indicating support for 24-hour roadwork or public transit construction in order to hasten the schedules.

It comes as Toronto city council awaits a plan for accelerating the rehabilitation of the Gardiner Expressway. The three-year lane closure between Dufferin St. and Strachan Ave. that began in April incited outcry as drivers reported unprecedented increases to commute times, later confirmed to be as high as 250 per cent.

The city staff plan for expediting the rebuild of the western Gardiner was scheduled to be presented to the Mayor’s executive committee Tuesday, though as of Monday night the report had not been published.

The Toronto Region Board of Trade, meanwhile, has assembled a congestion task force that is working to develop an action plan to combat the growing gridlock, scheduled to be released early next year.

“There’s a sense that the City has not come to grips with this,” Gherson said.

“Congestion is very much uppermost in people’s minds, and they want it resolved.”

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