It’s the King Street Transit Pilot’s birthday.
Exactly one year ago on November 12, Toronto’s downtown transit pilot project began, changing the way cars travel through this major corridor between Bathurst and Jarvis along King.
At the time, Toronto City Council approved the King Street Pilot Project, giving priority to people and transit first, by improving transit reliability, speed, and capacity.
And as the one-year pilot nears its end, continuing through the end of December, here’s a look back at what happened along King Street over the past year.
Transit reliability and ridership
The City of Toronto released data regularly through the pilot, with the latest one showing an 11% increase in all-day ridership along the corridor.
The largest change is during weekday ridership, which is up 35% in the morning, and 27% in the evening.
The pilot also shows an increase in transit reliability with 82% of streetcars arriving within four minutes during the morning commute. To note, this is actually down 4% since a report released earlier this year.
The latest data covers July and August of this year, and states that there’s an approximate four to seven-minute improvement in the slowest streetcar travel time during the afternoon commute.
Travel times have improved due in part to transit signal priority being enabled in the pilot area. In July, the slowest times in both directions in the afternoon commute were faster than the pre-pilot average times. August travel times increased from July due to construction and streetcar route diversions.
After initially offering parking discounts in the King Street pilot area to encourage people to visit the neighbourhood’s bars, restaurants, and businesses, the City of Toronto also began offering free parking.
The City announced that up to two hours of free parking on King (up to $10) are among “operational changes to improve transit and traffic flow and support local business.”
At the time, in January, it said that it’s responding to feedback from transit riders, drivers, and the businesses in the pilot area.
A group associated with King Street’s Kit Kat Italian Bar decided to play hockey in front of the restaurant, located at 297 King St W.
Vivian, a waitress at Kit Kat, told Daily Hive at the time that they were demonstrating that they support the King Street Pilot, but want to show that the street is so slow they can host a game of hockey.
Over the summer, 18 new curb lane public spaces were implemented providing space for people to sit and socialize.
According to the City, 45 unique public amenities were introduced into these locations, including nine curb lane cafes, ten public seating areas, eight parklets, and eight public art installations.
In February, the City introduced Eat on King Street.
Part of the Food is King promotion, it provided a one-time $15 Ritual credit towards any menu item at 40 participating restaurants in the area of the King Street pilot project.
Designed to drive foot traffic on the stretch of King West between Bathurst and Jarvis, the promotion is “made possible through a partnership between the City of Toronto, the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) and the Toronto headquartered food ordering app Ritual.”
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.
While the project has helped the current transit system “catch up” to recent development, the Ryerson researchers 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.”
It also said that with the current pilot project, the TTC still doesn’t have room to increase its ridership over the next few years.
Others call it a success
Advocacy group TTCriders say that the pilot is a success.
Residents, businesses, and civic organizations are calling on the City to make the pilot project permanent so that everyone can continue to benefit from good transit on the busiest surface corridor in the city, according to a release from the TTCRiders.
“The King Street Pilot has been a huge success for transit riders because it’s made their commutes more reliable. Before the pilot, King Street wasn’t working for anyone and it was often faster to walk than take transit on King,” said Anna Lermer, a member of TTCriders. “The pilot hasn’t just benefited current riders, it’s brought new riders to public transit.”
TTCriders, CityPlace Residents’ Association, Liberty Village Residents Association, and Walk Toronto will be hosting an meeting on Monday November 26 to mark one year of the King Street Pilot to engage people who travel, work and live around the 504 King route in a discussion about the pilot.
The meeting is open to the public, and will discuss the future of the project.
Will it stay or will it go?
We’ll just have to wait and see what the fate of the Pilot is. According to the City, Staff are expected to bring a report related to the pilot before an upcoming meeting of the executive. After which, a decision should be made.