Gardiner Expressway traffic

Toronto drivers facing a soul-crushing 250% spike in travel time on the Gardiner

A new study reveals that travel times on the Gardiner Expressway — a major transportation route that is traveled by approximately 140,000 vehicles each day — have increased up to 250% on the westbound lanes during morning rush hour and 230% on eastbound lanes in the afternoon rush hour as a result of the latest construction project on this route.

The study was conducted by Geotab ITS, an Oakville-based company that tracks commercial vehicles using data and AI to help companies manage their fleets. The analysis found that since construction began on March 25, the average time to travel from the Humber River to Strachan Ave. increased from 8 minutes to 20 minutes, and the typical time to travel the 5 km stretch between Jarvis St. and Dufferin St. is now 25 minutes instead of 11 minutes.

It’s not any easier for commercial vehicle drivers either—they’re spending 80% more time driving per day on average compared to the pre-construction period. The rise in travel time is also impacting business productivity, as the study finds that increased drive time adds pressure, particularly to last-mile delivery companies.

“The Toronto Region Board of Trade reports that traffic congestion costs over $11 billion in productivity losses each year, and impacts trade and productivity in the city,” Geotab noted in a news release. “In 2023, there were 19 million annual commercial trips in the Toronto Core, representing 151 million kilometers driven.”

More drivers are attempting to access secondary roads but are encountering issues there as well. The top three roads most impacted by commercial traffic congestion, with an average increase of 43%, are Harbour St. (with a 72% increase in travel time), Lakeshore Blvd. (a 30% increase in travel time), and Cherry St. (a 27% increase in travel time).

Vehicle emissions have also increased due to longer drive times on the Gardiner. Increased driving times led to a 23% increase in emissions, which is an extra 1,200 kg of CO2 daily from the vehicles in the study — similar to the carbon footprint of a premium roundtrip flight from Toronto to Vancouver.

Geotab also identified a 26% increase in commercial vehicle idling time and the amount of traffic traveling less than 25 km/hr has doubled.

For this study, Geotab tracked more than 10,000 commercial vehicles that travelled on the Gardiner Expressway for nearly two months before the beginning of the lane closures on March 25 and two months into the closures.

Lane restrictions have been implemented for critical rehabilitation work to take place on the more than 60-year-old route as part of the City of Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway Strategic Rehabilitation Plan. 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.

With summer construction season underway, Ontario Line construction 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. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, then consider walking or cycling—Toronto is getting a slew of new bike lanes and paths.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO