Gardiner lane reduction and TTC strike could make Toronto traffic the worst ever

With a TTC strike looming and part of the Gardiner reduced to two lanes—Toronto might be sitting on a ticking congestion time bomb that could potentially make summer commuting the worst in history.

On Monday, the union representing nearly 12,000 public transit workers in Toronto took the first step toward a strike action, as contract talks with the TTC have stalled.

The collective agreement between the TTC and ATU 113 expired on March 31, and although negotiations are ongoing, ATU Local 113 yesterday decided to take the first steps toward a strike action: they applied to the Ministry of Labour to request the appointment of a conciliation officer.

“Our union’s collective bargaining team has been working through negotiations with the TTC for weeks trying to get our members the new contract they deserve. The TTC is refusing to align with ATU Local 113 on the key priorities of transit workers, including job security, wages, and benefits,” the union said in a press release on Monday.

“While this is only the first step towards strike action, ATU Local 113 is prepared to move to direct action up to and including a full withdrawal of services.”

In a statement, TTC CEO Rick Leary said that the TTC is aware of ATU’s statement, and they are “pleased to see they are committed to staying at the bargaining table” to reach an agreement and avoid job action.

Still, the ATU’s announcement comes days after another TTC union, CUPE Local 2 (electrical skilled trades) announced that its members will begin strike action on Mon. April 22, should an agreement not be reached. Employees in this group include streetcar overhead and subway signal maintainers, among others. If both unions strike, it could lead to severe transit disruptions—potentially forcing more people into their cars, resulting in increased traffic congestion.

But Toronto roads are already majorly congested. The city recently topped the list as the most congested city in North America, and the third-most congested city in the world. According to the TomTom Traffic Index, which evaluates cities around the world by their average travel time, fuel costs, and CO2 emissions, it took Toronto commuters an average of 29 minutes to complete a 10-kilometre trip in 2023—50 seconds longer than the previous year.

And travel times will only increase further. Construction of the Gardiner from Dufferin to Strachan Ave. means that a 700-metre stretch of the Expressway, which sees about 200,000 vehicles pass through daily, is now only running on two lanes in each direction for the foreseeable future.

The scope of work involves replacing 700 metres of concrete deck and girders, rehabilitating the associated substructure, and installing new street lighting—but commuters are worried that this will only serve to worsen congestion, especially as the weather is getting warmer and more people are heading outdoors.

While TTC negotiations are up in the year, the Gardner lane closures will remain in effect until the project concludes in mid-2027, with a brief re-opening for FIFA World Cup 26 from May to the end of July 2026.

If the roads are too congested, then consider walking or cycling—Toronto is getting a whack of new bike lanes and paths this spring.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO