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Less than one per cent of drivers who break rules on King Street transit corridor get tickets: report

A police car is stopped as traffic moves along the street during the second day of the King Street Transit Pilot involving citys streetcars on Monday, November 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Doug Ives A police car is stopped as traffic moves along the street during the second day of the King Street Transit Pilot involving citys streetcars on Monday, November 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Doug Ives
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A new analysis of traffic and ticket data from King Street is adding weight to a growing sense that the streetcar right-of-way is no longer functioning as intended.

The analysis from the University of Toronto's School of Cities found that less than half a percent of daily violations along the King Street Transit Priority Corridor are ticketed by police.

The TTC recently revealed that travel times are as bad or worse than when the King Street Transit Pilot was launched in 2017, and said they believe that the problem stems from drivers breaking the special rules between Bathurst and Jarvis that are meant to give streetcars priority.

The issue was recently highlighted when a post went viral on Reddit showing that it takes less time for a person to walk from Peter Street to Yonge Street than to take the King streetcar.

The authors of the report requested data on intersection-level vehicle movement as well as traffic tickets from Toronto Police from 2016 to mid-2023.

"From this data, we find there are approximately 6,800 illegal turns and thru movements at intersections per day on the King Street Transit Priority Corridor, but less than 0.3% are being ticketed by Toronto Police, on average," the report states. "Thus more than 99.7% of drivers are not being fined for breaking the law on the King Street Transit Priority Corridor."

With fines ranging from $85-100, the authors call the lack of enforcement "a missed opportunity for potential revenue" and say automatic enforcement cameras would be helpful.

Coun. Chris Moise recently moved a motion asking city staff to explore the idea.

The King Street Transit Priority Corridor was launched as a pilot project in 2017 and was made permanent two years later after it was found to have greatly improved travel times on the city's busiest surface route.

The project was hailed as a "surface subway" for improving east-west transit times downtown along the priority corridor. However the idea rests on regular vehicles mostly staying off of King Street in that area.

In the new report, the authors analyzed traffic violations by intersection, looking at data from 2019, which offered the most complete picture.

They estimated that in that year the intersection of King and Portland saw the highest average number of daily violations at 1,106. However the average number of tickets issued per day at that intersection in 2019 was just six.

At King and Bathurst streets, where there were an estimated 1,064 daily violations, fewer than three tickets per day were handed out.

Data for more recent years show that traffic violations have been climbing to similar or higher levels over the past two years.

"It is clear that the number of traffic violations in the latter half of 2022 and into 2023 are very close to 2019 averages," the report states. "While we do not have complete data across all intersections, based on the data that we do have, we can be pretty confident that the number of violations per day (excluding 10pm to 5am) has returned to the 2019 level of approximately 6,800 per day."

Meanwhile the number of tickets handed out by police has declined, while the number of warnings handed out has remained relatively steady.

The authors say it's unclear from the data why some drivers would be getting warnings instead of tickets.

"Installing automatic enforcement cameras would massively increase the capacity to ticket those who violate the traffic restrictions of the King Street Transit Priority Corridor and provide needed revenue for the city," they write.

The report points out that if all violations were actually ticketed, it would bring in an estimated $685,000 per day.

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