Diamonds for cash

diamond_lane1.gifThe Toronto Sun, in its paranoid wisdom, has an entertaining article linking a one-off, one-week traffic enforcement blitz , acknowledged and publicized by the police, as a desperate cash grab by Mayor Miller.

The anonymous officers quoted in the story lend some credence to the rumour that the Toronto force is less-than-enthralled by enforcing existing traffic rules, particularly when it comes to high-occupancy lanes:

“Hey, don’t blame me; my boss told me to take my ticket book out,” said one copper this week. He was at Dundas St. W., near Kipling Ave., handing out ticket after ticket to people driving in diamond lanes — designated for buses, taxis or cars with three or more people in it.

Another cop tells the Sun, “We never mind writing tickets for legitimate driving infractions, but the enforcement of the diamond lanes is something new. And not something we are crazy about.”

As the Sun reporter points out, there’s money to be made in enforcing existing rules. 2,790 tickets were issued for various infractions during the campaign. And hey — buses and bicycles would move faster too. Too bad traffic rules are only enforced for a week or two each year!

In a blitz in the past week, Toronto Police nailed 1,220 motorists for driving in “HOV lanes (high occupancy vehicle lanes) during prohibited times.”

You might think the Sun’s law-and-order outrage would be focused on diamond lane scofflaws. But no — it’s upset about whoever is forcing officers to do their job. It’s not just greedy — it’s downright unsafe to have officers stopping the chaotic flow of bylaw-breaking traffic! To quote again:

But they are not tax collectors for an inept city council either. For example, stings during rush hour in the phony environmental lanes is an appalling practice, unsafe for the police and drivers, and needs to be stopped immediately — no matter how much extra money it brings in at a time when council has a $576 million budget shortfall for next year.

The article also contains the sad tale of a man who had double parked in a spot already occupied by a motorcycle and was ticketed — even though he’d just gone to Cherry Beach to walk his dog. Life’s a bitch sometimes.

Or maybe more sinister forces are at work:

Cash seems to be the name of the game. Eddie Dimitropoulos of Mr. J’s Chip wagon at Cherry Beach said he has never seen anything like it in his 18 years there. “This year is very bad — especially in the past two weeks,” he said.

One of those two weeks would be the timeframe of the rare traffic enforcement blitz. I was at Cherry Beach last Sunday, during the second week of unprecedented ticket writing, and witnessed some of the worst and most frightening driving I’ve ever seen in the city. The friend I met who drove in and parked in the busy and crowded lot commented on it too. I don’t want to leap to conclusions — since a plan to make up a half-billion dollar deficit one $80 fine at a time makes so much sense it’s hard to question it might be at work — but could the atrocious driving and the unprecedented ticketing at Cherry Beach be somehow linked?