TTC commute times along the King Street pilot project’s 2.5-kilometre stretch have improved by an average of about four or five minutes during rush hour, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Toronto.

In November, the city launched a one-year pilot project on King Street between Jarvis and Bathurst streets in an effort to speed up streetcar service along the busy downtown corridor.

As part of the pilot, all vehicles, with the exception of TTC and emergency vehicles, are only allowed to travel one block along that stretch before drivers are forced to make a right-hand turn.

After analyzing TTC GPS data collected before and after the implementation of the pilot project, researchers at the downtown university found big improvements in commute times along the corridor.

“The main result is that travel times have been improved by about four to five minutes during the rush hour period and that’s for trips that start on one side of the pilot project and continue through to the end of the pilot project,” Steven Farber, the co-director of the Spatial Analysis of Urban Systems lab at U of T, told CP24 Monday.

“The four minutes seems like a small amount of time but actually, in the aggregate, that is a really big time savings for commuters in this city when we look at changes in commuting time for the entire region going up by about a minute or two in a 10-year period,” Farber said.

He added that the number of “long duration” trips along the route has also been substantially reduced.

“We are no longer seeing very many unreliable, long duration trips occurring during the peak period. So it used to be the case that almost 20 per cent of trips in rush hour were taking more than 25 minutes just to travel that 2.5-kilometre stretch. Now that is way down to only 1.3 per cent of trips,” he said.

Farber noted that long duration trips are often the ones that discourage people from taking transit altogether.

He said he believes the improved commute times will likely translate into increased ridership.

“Clearly what we are seeing in the pilot is the effect of the transit priority policies being implemented there,” he said.

While Farber said his study is limited to information about TTC vehicle travel times, he noted that the city will be doing its own research on the impact the pilot project has on cars in the area.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Mayor John Tory said the city’s research will include how the pilot impacts motorists, TTC users, businesses, and transit vehicles.

“We are looking right now at all the factors involved in this,” Tory added.

The mayor said while it is early days and he is not “proclaiming any victories,” the U of T study suggests the pilot project is making a “big difference” for the 65,000 people who use the King streetcar every day.

“We are going to make sure we do whatever we can, albeit with the limited number of streetcars we have, to make sure we can meet the needs of the customers who now want to come back to transit,” Tory said.

“That’s the objective at the end of the day, to get people to use transit, to come back to transit, to try transit, and we certainly weren’t going to be doing it as long as streetcars were moving slower than people walking down the sidewalk.”