King Street pilot project will take some getting used to, TTC says
Rachael D'Amore, CTV News Toronto
Published Monday, November 13, 2017 12:14PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 14, 2017 9:58AM EST
The time has come – streetcars now reign on a bustling portion of King Street West in Toronto’s downtown core.
But not everyone is pleased about it.
As part of the one-year pilot project, part of King Street will no longer be used as a thoroughfare, forcing all traffic travelling on the road to turn right at Bathurst or Jarvis streets.
On-street parking has also been eliminated in the designated area and left turns are forbidden at each of the signalized intersections.
Toronto police Const. Clint Stibbe said police recognize that the project will be a big change for motorists and officers will patrol the stretch to help guide people in the right direction.
While the first two weeks will be a bit of a grace period for driver, Stibbe said traffic tickets could be handed out sooner rather than later.
“When we do a written warning, it goes into our system and it’s actually recorded. So an officer, if they stop that same individual and see that they are on the system already as being warned, then I’m going to suggest that that person is now going to get charged,” Stibbe said.
“Saying, ‘I don’t know’ isn’t a defence... If you don't know about it, you're living under a rock.”
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said an adjustment period is only natural for the project.
He said any subsequent congestion that shifts to other roads – such as Front, Adelaide or Wellington streets – will “work itself out.”
“We’re not expecting to see a whole lot of congestion elsewhere,” he said, adding that tweaks to traffic light timings may eventually be necessary.
“As I said, it’ll work itself out. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll see the adjustment.”
While there are some exemptions to the rule -- taxis are allowed on the street from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. – some residents say that’s not enough.
“A lot of the people in the neighbourhood use local restaurants, dry cleaners, things like that…I feel a little bad for the people who own the restaurants in this neighbourhood,” one King Street resident said.
“People come from out of town (to visit here). I hope it doesn’t affect the local business too much because it’s a great neighbourhood.”
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti expressed similar sentiments.
In a press release sent out Monday, Mammoliti called the pilot project a “disaster” that “excludes” motorists.
“The King Street Plan, much like the Bloor bike lanes project, is just (Mayor John Tory’s) latest salvo in the war on the car,” Mammoliti said. “While Tory claims this is about making King Street a transit priority zone, what it’s really about is making it a car exclusion zone.”
So far local businesses have already been faced with hiccups regarding deliveries being “hours late” due to the changes because drivers unsure of how to access back alleys. Restaurants also fear that the King Street changes will affect how customers get to their business.
“A lot of the pedestrians who live in the area will continue to come here. However the people from out of town that want to come visit the restos or the area will likely go elsewhere,” Milton Nunes told CTV News Toronto.
How the changes will impact income will take weeks, but businesses are doing their best to inform their customers.
The TTC says it will be collecting data throughout the project, including speeds, ridership, pedestrian and motorist safety as well as local retail sales.
The data will be “regularly collected and shared with the public” and turned over to the city, they say.
“The other thing the city will be doing is looking at data from Moneris – so debit and credit card usage along the route with respect to businesses and retail outlets -- to see if it’s up or down, or the same. Those are the kind of measurements that the city will be looking at and working with businesses and BIA’s along the stretch,” Ross said.
“I think you can expect that it’s going to take a couple of weeks to adjust and adapt.”
Some pedestrians travelling along King Street Monday said they recognize the project’s potential.
“I think it’s great for the city, obviously it’s going to take some time for people to get used to the change but I think as soon as people get used to it, it’ll be really good,” one man said.
“I normally transit to this area but have driven on it and I can see how it can be frustrating, especially the parking aspect, it’ll be an adjustment.”
“I think it’s necessary. We’ve got to get the city moving,” said another. “I don’t take transit but I walk down King every day and I can see the sheer amount of people actual using the streetcar. So, shout out to Mayor Tory for taking action and implementing this pilot.”
Transit riders, on the other hand, are understandably optimistic about the changes.
“I ride the streetcar all the time from Jarvis to Dufferin and at Spadina you often wait 15 minutes jut to get through the intersection,” one man said. "I think it’s the most fabulous thing to happen since sliced bread."