A recent study of the King Street Transit Pilot calls the project a mismatch between transit planning (or infrastructure) and development.
Researchers Diana Petramala and Alex Butler at the Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development (CUR) say that the King Street Pilot still falls short on transit needs along the corridor.
Launched in November, the King Street Transit Pilot is about moving people more efficiently on transit, improving public space, and supporting business and economic prosperity along King Street, according to the City of Toronto.
The pilot aims to improve transit reliability, speed, and capacity on the busiest surface transit route in the city by giving transit priority on King Street from Bathurst Street to Jarvis Street.
And while the project has helped the current transit system “catch up” to recent development, the Ryerson researcher’s said that “given 8,000 units are still under construction along the route, the streetcar is likely to be overcrowded once again in the coming years, even if the pilot is made permanent.”
“The issue with the King corridor is the amount of development that has occurred without proper assessment of transit needs,” reads the CUR study. “Analyzing the census tracts that the King Streetcar runs through gives an idea of the amount of construction happening within 400 meters of King Street.”
Petramala and Butler look at CMHC data, which shows there has been almost 30,000 new residential units built in census tracts around the King Street corridor since 2010.
“Put another way, almost 10% of total development across the Greater Toronto Area occurred in areas serviced by the King streetcar,” they said.
And with that, to accommodate the development, the TTC added about 8 to 10 streetcars during the morning peak hours, and 10 streetcars during afternoons between 2011 and early 2017.
“In other words, the TTC made room for between 860 to almost 1300 passengers to accommodate the creation of 30,000 residential units alone. This does not include office development,” said the study.
With the current pilot project, the TTC still doesn’t have room to increase its ridership over the next few years.
“At its peak service level, the streetcar route can only carry an additional 150 people or so before it breeches its maximum capacity once again. There are still some 8,000 residential units under construction around the streetcar route – not to mention the office development also under way,” reads the CUR study.
This means, streetcars will be overcrowded again, even if just under 6% of the new households use TTC. And according to the census, 40% of households in the census tracts around the streetcar line relied on transit to get to and from work in 2016.
Earlier this year, the City of Toronto said it’s investing $55.52 million and the province committed $150 million to Metrolinx to work with the city and TTC to advance planning and design of the Relief Line. But that will take years, and won’t be ready until 2031 if it’s on time.
Petramala and Butler say that more creative transit solutions will be needed before that happens.
“Until then, more creative solutions to carry passengers along the route may be needed to accommodate for all of the development occurring within 400 meters of the King route.”