By Zoran Postic
As home to a bustling downtown core, thousands of businesses and more than 341,600 residents, Vaughan is one of Ontario’s fastest growing municipalities—and it continues to expand. In fact, by 2031, the city’s population is projected to increase by 36 per cent, while jobs are expected to grow by 18 per cent in the same period. To support Vaughan’s rapidly increasing population, the City is working smarter to meet the existing and evolving transportation needs of current and future residents. The City’s Public Works portfolio launched the new MoveSmart Mobility Management Strategy in March 2021, a first-of-its-kind initiative in the province that aligns the City’s vision and forward-thinking initiatives to ensure an efficient, reliable, safe and sustainable transportation system over the next five years, and beyond.
Developed with input from the community, including the Accessibility Advisory Committee (PDF) and the Seniors Association of Vaughan Initiatives, MoveSmart is a plan to continue delivering efficient traffic services in response to the increase in travel demand. The strategy objectives include the following:
- Provide a framework for collaboration with the community and other stakeholders;
- Define a set of goals for transportation encompassing community values and identify a plan to address the City’s mobility needs in an effective, responsible and sustainable manner; and
- Identify opportunities for a more balanced approach to transportation, including the most vulnerable road users.
MoveSmart consists of four programs, which include 29 initiatives in total. The programs are as follows:
- Road Safety Program: to increase road safety and raise public awareness.
- Mobility Management Program: to improve efficiency through innovation and technology.
- Traffic Data Management Program: to assure accuracy and availability of traffic data.
- Sustainable Mobility Program: to support active and sustainable transportation.
Each of these four programs helps guide City staff to continue to focus efforts on ensuring an efficient and reliable transportation system that ultimately gets citizens and visitors where they need to go.
MoveSmart reinforces the City’s commitment to Transportation and Mobility—a strategic priority in the City’s 2018-2022 Term of Council Service Excellence Strategic Plan. It focuses on improving the municipal road network, enhancing road safety and supporting more cycling and pedestrian infrastructure to create a fully connected and integrated community. The strategy will be reviewed and updated every five years, and its progress will be reported annually to Council.
Speed limit policy
In Vaughan, ensuring the safety and well-being of all citizens and visitors remains a top priority. As part of that commitment, the City is taking action to reduce speeding in the community. Based on a Council directive in 2015, City staff conducted a review of Vaughan’s street network to develop a speed limit policy to address community safety, account for the increase in the number of pedestrians and cyclists, and ensure speed limits are consistent with future growth. The relationship between speed and injury severity is critical for vulnerable road users. Evidence suggests that lowering speed limits, especially in residential areas, can be effective in reducing the risk of severe injury or even death.
This is where the City’s new Speed Limit Policy comes in. As part of the larger MoveSmart Mobility Management Strategy, the policy sets and adjusts appropriate speed limits throughout the City’s street network to continue to ensure a safe community for all road users and address growing urbanization as more cars are anticipated to be on the roads. The policy is exclusive to municipal roads and focuses on four areas within Vaughan’s road network: rural roadways, built-up/urban areas (including school zones), public laneways and select neighbourhoods.
To align with the first week of school and help ensure families can safely walk, cycle or drive to and from school, the City launched the Speed Limit Policy in September 2021 in all school zones across Vaughan. Speed limits in school zone areas decreased from 50 kilometres per hour to 40 kilometres per hour, and new signage was installed. The City also decreased speed limits on all public laneways in December to 30 kilometres per hour from 50 kilometres per hour.
The next step in the City’s Speed Limit Policy will be changing speed limits in select neighbourhood areas throughout Vaughan from 50 kilometres per hour to 40 kilometres per hour by fall 2022. York Regional Police (YRP) will be responsible for enforcing speed limit compliance, and City staff will continue to work closely with YRP to develop public education and enforcement strategies—both of which are essential components to achieve compliance.
Alongside the Speed Limit Policy, road safety and school zone safety continue to be a joint priority for the City’s Transportation and Fleet Management Services, By-law and Compliance, Licensing and Permit Services and Vaughan Fire and Rescue Service departments. Together with York Regional Police, York Region, York Region District School Board and York Catholic District School Board, the City remains committed to implementing new and innovative initiatives to ensure the safety of all members of the community.
To reduce incidences of speeding, the City has partnered with residents who share the same traffic concerns. The name of the new, interactive campaign says it all: #SlowDownVaughan.
Vaughan residents can post a #SlowDownVaughan sign on their lawn, in their windows or on their social media profiles to encourage the public to slow down while driving on City roads. Lawn signs are available to pick up at Vaughan Public Libraries and community centres, excluding Garnet A. Williams Community Centre as it undergoes renovations. Citizens can also download print-at-home window signs or social media graphics. The signs are produced by the City and are free to Vaughan residents.
Citizens are also encouraged to use the power of social media and show their support for safe driving by sharing pictures of their signs online and using the hashtag #SlowDownVaughan.
This program is just one of many underway related to road safety and aligned with the directions, programs and plans outlined in the City’s MoveSmart Mobility Management Strategy and Speed Limit Policy.
Vaughan is a dynamic city that’s ever-growing and changing. It’s clear the MoveSmart Mobility Management Strategy, Speed Limit Policy and #SlowDownVaughan campaign are just the beginning of a long road of work to ensure the safety of the community and those who travel throughout Vaughan. It’s a Council-approved vision that City staff continue to drive forward to achieve an exceptional citizen experience and continued innovation.
[This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 edition of ReNew Canada.]
Zoran Postic is the deputy city manager of Public Works at the City of Vaughan, which consists of the Transportation and Fleet Management Services, Parks, Forestry and Horticulture Operations, and Environmental Services departments.
Featured image: The City of Vaughan launched the new MoveSmart Mobility Management Strategy in March 2021, a first-of-its-kind initiative in Ontario. (City of Vaughan)