King Street pilot project will put streetcars first starting Sunday
Rachael D'Amore, CTV News Toronto
Published Thursday, November 9, 2017 5:38PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 10, 2017 1:31PM EST
Starting Sunday, a heavily travelled portion of King Street will be cleared for streetcars as a long awaited pilot project takes shape in Toronto.
The year-long initiative will limit motorists from using King Street as a thoroughfare and will prioritize the some 65,000 people who use the TTC along that route daily.
Back in the summer, city council approved the $1.5 million pilot project in a 35-4 vote in hopes of reducing traffic and streetcar congestion downtown.
As part of the project, drivers travelling east on King will be forced to turn right at Bathurst Street and those travelling west will have to turn at Jarvis Street.
Left turns at signalized intersections along King Street will be forbidden during the project.
The project will also see 180 on-street parking spaces removed along the designated stretch while space is made for cyclists in the curb lane.
Taxis are only partially exempt from the new rules and are permitted to travel through the area between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. But during regular hours, they too will be forced off the busy street.
“Right now there are 65,000 people who ride the 504 King streetcar and the 514 Cherry streetcar on an average day. There are only about 20,000 people in cars, so there’s an imbalance there and King Street isn’t working,” TTC spokesperson Brad Ross told CTV News Toronto on Thursday.
“Anybody who rides the King car anybody who drives on King Street knows that it’s congested, it’s crowded, that the King car is unreliable. We need to put transit first on King Street.”
Today, city crews were dispatched across the busy stretch to install signage, adjust pavement markings and prepare set ups for new streetcar stops.
Ward 15 city Coun. Josh Colle told reporters at a news conference Thursday that the hope is motorists will take advantage of alternate east-west routes, including Richmond Street, Adelaide Street, Wellington Street, Front Street, Queens Quay, Lakeshore Boulevard or the Gardiner Expressway.
“This is a pilot so we’ll see what we learn from it but I think this will inform us if we have to do more, what that more might be I’m not sure and I don’t know if we’re in a position to say that now but I think we have to continue to look at these things and maybe we’ll learn things from King that we can apply at other corridors,” Colle said.
“I think it’s something that we have to learn from and if it doesn’t achieve the results we want then we have to be innovative and look at other options.”
During the first two weeks, Colle said dedicated Toronto police officers will patrol the stretch to educate and eventually enforce the new rules.
As well, the TTC has assigned a dedicated console inside its control center to monitor the route and will deploy customer service ambassadors to the street to help confused riders.
Data regarding transit speed, ridership, pedestrians, safety and retail sales will also be “regularly collected and shared with the public.”
Coun. Mike Layton said the “struggle” many King Street transit riders face every day when trying to get to work is unacceptable and that the city “need to try something.”
“We should commend those taking transit because what they’re doing is they’re making the choice not to drive their car and add additional congestion on our street but instead, ride with some of their neighbours into work every morning,” Layton said at the news conference.
“We should be trying to make their life, their ride in the morning, better. The King Street pilot project is just that – it’s a pilot.”
The reaction from Torontonians on the street, meanwhile, seems mixed.
“I see no issue with making it a thoroughfare,” one woman told CTV News Toronto. “King Street is a mess, especially during rush hour so any steps you can take to make it flow more smoothly, I’m on board with.”
“I think it could easily cause more congestion on the other east-end streets,” one man said. “I can’t see how it wouldn’t actually.”
The TTC has also released two educational videos explaining how motorists can maneuver through the changes starting Sunday.
The city also noted that commonly used map-based apps, such as Google Maps and Waze, will be updated on the changes and provide more accurate navigation.
Here is what you need to know:
• Vehicles travelling eastbound on King Street must turn left or right at Bathurst Street. Vehicles travelling westbound must turn left or right at Jarvis Street.
• Through vehicular traffic should use other parallel east-west streets: Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, Front, Queens Quay, Lake Shore and the Gardiner Expressway, and then access King Street via north-south streets.
• TTC vehicles, City of Toronto emergency and maintenance vehicles, and cyclists are allowed to travel through the pilot area at all times of the day.
• Space for cyclists is provided in the curb lane but no dedicated bike lanes are provided.
• Between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., City-licensed taxis are allowed to travel straight through the pilot area. At other times, taxis must follow the same rules as other traffic.
• There is no on-street parking on King Street in the pilot area. On-street parking is available on some nearby streets and there are several off-street parking lots near King Street.
• While travelling on King Street, left turns at signalized intersections (turning off King Street) are not allowed.
• Current turning restrictions for accessing King Street will remain in place (where left turns onto King Street were previously permitted, they will continue to be permitted).
• Existing permitted movements and restrictions on north-south streets will continue after the launch of the King Street Transit Pilot. For example, vehicle traffic on all north-south streets in the pilot area (such as Bathurst, Spadina, John, University and Yonge) can still cross King Street.