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40 km/h speed limit debate headed back to Oakville council

Oakville News/KA
Oakville News/KA

Dropping speed limits from 50 to 40 km/h does little to slow down drivers.

That’s the conclusion town staff have reached after studying three pilot programs that lowered speed limits in Oakville neighbourhoods.

Over the last four years, pilot projects have been undertaken in the West River area, on Heritage Way in Glen Abbey, and in Bronte’s Lakeshore Woods neighbourhood.

The results?

The three projects “showed an insignificant impact on operating speeds and did not achieve the objective of altering driver behaviour.”

A posted speed limit of 40 km/h changed driver speeds by 1 km/h or less in all three areas, as compared to a 50 km/h limit.

Town of Oakville
Town of Oakville

As a result, town staff is recommending against lowering Oakville's posted speed limits.

Ward 1 councillor Sean O’Meara says he is disappointed but not surprised by the pilot program results.

He says he will still urge his colleagues to consider a town-wide reduction on neighbourhood roadways on Sept. 18, when the staff report is presented for council consideration.

“This is not about what the data says, it’s about where we want to be, what's the goal of our community? And it starts by setting the laws,” he says.

“Either we want to be serious about people slowing down in our communities or not, and it doesn't happen over a two-year period.”

Long a proponent of lower speed limits, O’Meara says the pilot projects didn’t demonstrate changed behaviour because they lacked a comprehensive education and enforcement element, and simply expected results too quickly.

While he isn’t optimistic that he will convince fellow councillors to look beyond the pilot project data, he still believes lower speed limits are necessary to put safety ahead of cars and transportation efficiency.

“Sometimes things take generational change to happen. This is one of them. And we're behind the curve -- so many municipalities across Canada, Ontario and the US have already made these changes, just because it’s the right thing to do.”

In January 2021, a surprise last-minute motion from O’Meara to lower speed limits across the town earned approval from councillors.

But in October of that year, when details of an implementation plan were made public, a number of councillors expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the reduction and voted for a deferral and further study.

Read more: Council brakes on town wide 40 km/h speed limit

School zones in Oakville are already posted for 40 km/h and often feature traffic calming measures and radar speed display signs. They will also see speed enforcement cameras when that program becomes active.

If town councillors move ahead with implementing the lower speed limits on minor collector and local roads, the cost would be either $250,000 or $405,000, depending on the signage plan.

Snapping photos to slow down speeders

Mobile photo radar cameras – officially known as automated speed enforcement (ASE) – are expected to arrive on Oakville streets by about next June.

The town has purchased 14 mobile cameras that will issue up to 40,000 tickets a year.

The cameras will rotate through community safety zones – areas near schools or other safety-sensitive spots where speeding is deemed to be particularly dangerous.

The program is expected to cost about $2.6 million a year to run but bring in about $2.7 million in revenue.

Initially approved in 2021, automated speed enforcement has faced numerous delays in launching. But town staff now say that provincial rules and systems to make ticketing feasible will be in place by late spring.

Speeders will be ticketed through an administrative penalty system – similar to a parking ticket – rather than a court process.

Read more: What you need to know about speed enforcement cameras

Warning signs will be posted at least 90 days before cameras are activated in all areas where ASE is in use.

A town communications plan about the project will launch in 2024.

Other traffic safety initiatives underway:
  • Another 20 pedestrian crossovers will be installed this fall, to bring the town’s total number to 89.
  • In 2024, the town will conduct a safety assessment on Bronte’s Marine Drive, between East Street and Bronte Road. The assessment aims to “resolve pedestrian and vehicle safety concerns arising from the driveway sightlines.”
  • A southbound advance left-turn signal will be established on Dorval Drive and Rebecca Street in 2024.
  • Two new traffic signals will be installed this fall at: Third Line and Sobey’s plaza entrance; Brock Street at Rebecca (replacing the pedestrian crossover).
  • A new traffic calming process will soon require residents to get fewer households to sign a survey requesting a neighbourhood speed study. If the study demonstrates speeding, at least 30 per cent of area households will have to respond to a town survey, with more than 50 per cent of them supporting the implementation of traffic calming measures.