City unveils King Street Pilot Study, puts transit first

May 19 2017, 12:13 am

Between the streetcars, traffic, construction, and the hoards of pedestrians, it can be a nightmare to get anywhere along King Street – especially during rush hour or at 11 pm on a Saturday night.

It’s the busiest surface transit route in Toronto – and also the most frustrating. It’s often quicker to walk than to sweat to death on an unmoving, overcrowded streetcar.

So the City of Toronto has big plans for change with the proposition of the King Street Pilot Study, with the star of the show being the (oft-maligned) streetcar.

The idea is to redesign King Street to move people more efficiently on transit, support businesses, and improve public space.

In other words, a lot.

City of Toronto

If approved by City Council, the proposal would impact the busiest area of King Street, between Bathurst and Jarvis during a yearlong test project. Currently, about 20,000 drivers use King Street daily, mostly for local trips. The solution? Disperse the cars, says the City.

The idea is to make transit a priority between Bathurst and Jarvis by restricting cars to local access only. This will be achieved by right-turn “loops” within the pilot area and no left turns, and no east-west through traffic at key intersections within the pilot area (bikes, police, fire and EMS vehicles are exceptions). As a result, up to 50 per cent of King Street’s existing car traffic is expected to disperse across parallel corridors that include Queen Street, Richmond Street, Adelaide Street, Wellington Street, and Front Street. Of course, some may argue that these construction-filled streets are going to become even more of a nightmare to navigate during peak times.

The pilot proposes to move key streetcar stops to the far side of the intersection (good news for anyone who has ever almost been smoked by a car when exiting the streetcar), with a physical “bump-out” in the curb lane. There will also be more space for waiting passengers. Local traffic will share the streetcar lane, but must turn right at the intersection. While there won’t be any dedicated bike lanes, there will be space for cyclists in the curb lane beside the streetcar lane.

When it comes to supporting local businesses, the plan would provide space for short-term loading, pickup, and deliveries and allow for physical gaps for local traffic to access driveways. Naturally, street parking will not be allowed. In terms of improving public space, the plan is to have new seating and planter-filled spaces in curb lanes, streetcar stops marked by murals on the street, and bike parking.

In recent years, King Street has seen everything from extended turning and parking restrictions, increased fines for “no stopping,” and LED ‘no left turn’ signs, to all-door boarding on the TTC (POP), supplemental buses, and adjusted streetcar route running times.

Clearly, nothing is working.

While the plan will not be without its inevitable pushback, to those who may argue that streetcars shouldn’t take priority over cars, the City says that King Street moves 65,000 riders each day, as opposed to the 20,000 vehicles.

After a public meeting tonight (6:30-9:30 pm at the Intercontinental Hotel), the next step in the test project includes a TTC Board Meeting and a City Council Meeting.

If approved by council, it will be followed by the undertaking of a public education and awareness campaign and implementation in the fall.

Slow but steady (possibly) comes the streetcar.

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Erin Nicole DavisErin Nicole Davis

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