Toronto Mayor John Tory says he is "prepared to take the heat" for saying no to organizers of marathons and other special events if it helps to minimize traffic disruptions.
Mr. Tory, who promised during his mayoral election campaign to improve traffic co-ordination, including the scheduling of road closings for special events and construction, met with city staff to discuss the issue on Friday morning.
He vowed after the meeting to change the way the city approaches traffic closings, including increased communication, shorter construction closings and better co-ordination of events that clog the downtown core.
"People have given me a mandate, if necessary, to say no sometimes," Mr. Tory said.
"When three worthy groups all want to have their run down Yonge Street in the same month, that's very nice, but we may have to say to one of them, … 'Sorry, somebody may have to move to another month, or somebody's going to have to make the move to another place in the public interest,'" he said.
"I'm prepared to take the heat for that."
The mayor also said he would encourage organizers to move their special events outside the downtown core to minimize congestion.
Citing a recent run he attended in North York near Mel Lastman Square, he called it a "win-win" – a way to help bring the city together, as well as relieve gridlock.
Some of the city's biggest events – including the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and the Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart – are already scheduled for 2015, but Mr. Tory said it is not too early to start planning for 2016.
Jay Glassman, the race director for the annual Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon, said the co-ordination the mayor spoke of is already happening between organizers and the city.
He said the Goodlife event was always in October until the city asked to move it to May several years ago to accommodate other events.
"All these events are aware of traffic issues and sensitive to it, and do our best to minimize traffic congestion," he said. "We have many times in the last 20 years adjusted the course, adjusted the route, adjusted the time … at the city's request."
Mr. Glassman also said it would be unfeasible for the event simply to move to another part of the city, as suggested by Mr. Tory.
"A lot of work goes into finding a route that works and that's interesting ... People are travelling from all over the world for these events in some cases, and they don't want to be running up and down the Don Valley Parkway, for example," he said. "You can't just move it."
Alan Brookes, the president of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, said he did not want to speculate on Mr. Tory's comments. "2015 will be my 30th year of getting permits from the City of Toronto for major road races, and we've always worked in close collaboration with the City," he wrote in an e-mailed statement.
Mr. Tory also spoke of creating "incentives and disincentives" for private developers who disrupt traffic, including the possibility of higher fees for lane closings.
"Here's the bottom line in all of this," Mr. Tory said. "It is time, in a big city like this, that the public was placed first."