by Markus O’Brien Fehr, Chief of Staff
Does COVID-19 have an impact on neighbourhood noise? We were starting to wonder over the summer. While there have always been issues with souped up cars racing on our major roads in the middle of the night, especially on Yonge Street, Doris Avenue or Beecroft Road, complaints we received went through the roof in 2020. Was car racing seen as an appropriate socially distanced recreational activity?
The most obvious concern, driving at high rates of speed, is a major hazard not only for other drivers, but for nearby pedestrians if a car loses control. Increasingly, there are tools to deal with speed enforcement, including the City’s new Automated Speed Enforcement cameras (ASEs) that have, not coincidentally, been placed along the Doris Ave corridor this fall.
But the noise that accompanies this racing is also a big concern. Tens of thousands of residents are living along these roads. A revving engine at 2 AM can impact hundreds, if not thousands nearby. This can have a significant impact on public health when sleep cycles are regularly disrupted.
Council amended the City’s noise bylaw in 2019, aligning with the Ontario Highway Traffic Act to make any noise coming from a vehicle that is “audible at the point of reception” to be against the law. That means if you can hear an engine clearly in your condo, it’s too loud. But having a live police officer in the right place at the right time to issue tickets may be the very definition of looking for a needle in a haystack.
As we looked for solutions that didn’t involve paying police to sit on a street corner waiting for a loud noise to come along, I came across a pilot launched in the City of Edmonton in 2018. Their city was testing new technology, similar to automated speed enforcement, which would be activated by high decibel levels, taking a picture in that direction. The noise readings and photo could then be used by police to issue a ticket. Though Edmonton is still reviewing results, this is exactly the type of forward thinking needed in Toronto.
John successfully tabled a motion at Council this week asking staff to report back on brining a similar pilot to Toronto, also asking for more information on other emerging technologies that would allow for automated enforcement. He’s also asked for information about better regulating auto mechanics and similar businesses that may assist car owners with modifications for the sole purpose of making those vehicles louder.
It will still take some time for any of this to be in place. Staff will bring back a report in 2021 reviewing the success (or lack thereof) of the noise bylaw changes and include this requested information. In the meantime, there are actions that can be taken by residents to help the cause:
Report traffic concerns to the Toronto Police Service. Police deployment often relies on data, and traffic enforcement officers tend to go to places where there are consistent clusters of complaints.
Report noise complaints to 3-1-1. Though bylaw officers have limited ability to intervene, data collected by staff showed very little increase in complaints in 2020. Our data was very different. Reporting concerns to 311 will ensure City staff have a full appreciation of the problem.
Request a free “Watch Your Speed” lawn sign for your home by e-mailing our office.