Yesterday, Thursday May 19, hundreds of people came out to the InterContinental Hotel at Front and Simcoe, to see the City of Toronto's preferred option for the King Street Pilot Project. Back in February, we covered the first public consultation that represented Phase 1 of the project study—develop goals and pilot options—in which three versions were presented for feedback. Now three months later, we are at Phase 2 in this project, with the preferred pilot option, now more detailed, presented for feedback.

King Street Pilot Project, TorontoKing Street today, image via City of Toronto

Reiterating what he said at the first consultation, Ward 20 Councillor Joe Cressy declared at the beginning of the meeting "King Street just doesn't work". As the busiest surface transit route in Toronto, King Street averages 65,000 daily riders on a week day, while about 20,000 vehicles use it every day, mainly for local trips. During peak hours, the streetcars are jammed beyond capacity and often backed up along with private vehicular traffic. When they cannot operate on their own right-of-way, streetcars get stopped behind vehicles turning left, preventing them from moving through intersections. At times, it is faster to simply walk down (the over-crowded) King Street sidewalks rather than any other method of transport.

At peak hours, the average speed between Yonge and Bathurst streets on King is from 6 to 8km/h, while Yonge to Parliament is a bit faster, clocking in at 8 to 10km/h. The fastest stretch currently is Dufferin to Bathurst, where speeds range from 10 to 14km/hr. In Downtown, as 75% of residents either walk, cycle, or take transit, the need to refocus King Street into a system that can best move people is becoming ever more important as the population continues to grow.

King Street Pilot Project, TorontoCurrent travel times along King Street, image via City of Toronto

The pilot study, led by City Planning, the Transportation Department, and the TTC, is a chance to efficiently test out new a vision for King Street in a cost-effective way. From the temporary pilot program measures, the City will have the opportunity to learn what works, and what doesn't. It is also offering the chance to to have productive discussions with stakeholders and members of the general public for fresh ideas.

The proposed pilot section between Bathurst and Jarvis would see only local traffic access King, with private vehicles being restricted to right-turn loops. With vehicles also restricted to one lane each way, the curb lane will be dedicated to streetcar stops, outdoor patio space, limited delivery space, and enough space for cars to turn right at the end of the block. Left turns will be eliminated, while certain intersections will no longer have any east-west through traffic. According to the transportation department, the parallel east-west corridors do have sufficient capacity to handle the rerouted traffic. To the displeasure of some cyclists at the meeting, there will be no newly dedicated infrastructure to that need, however they will be allowed to ride the length of King St.

King Street Pilot Project, TorontoA few hundred people attended the consultation, image by Greg Lipinski 

The pilot is focused around three key objectives:

  • Move people more efficiently on transit. This will include moving most streetcar stops to the far side of the intersection with a physical "bump-out" in the curb lane, which would effectively provide more space for waiting transit users. Local traffic (cars) will be able to share the streetcar lanes, though must turn right at the approaching intersection. Finally, there will be space for cyclists in the curb lane next to the streetcar, and the east-west movement through intersections will be permitted for bikes as well, unlike for cars.
  • Improve public space. To start off, there will be new public spaces within the curb lanes, including patio furniture, planters, bike parking, and creating streetcar stop murals on the street. There will be partnership opportunities for community-based organizations such as BIAs & other businesses, to further enhance the streetscape. This could further lead to programming for adjacent public spaces, while existing transit shelters can be repurposed.
  • Support business and economic prosperity. This includes providing new (but limited) spaces for short-term loading, delivery services, as well as taxi pick-up and drop-off. Local traffic will have access to driveways off King Street, but on-street parking will not be allowed. (Only 3% of the area's parking is now provided on-street on King.)

King Street Pilot Project, TorontoThe proposed route, image via City of Toronto

A question and answer period followed the presentations. The questions were fielded by four panelists, including Chris Upfold of the TTC, Jacqueline Darwood of the TTC, Ashley Curtis of Transportation Services, and Dave Dunn of Tranportation Services.

Questions included:

  • Would data be studied during the duration of the pilot? Panelists answered that there would; part of the pilot is to test, monitor, and evaluate the outcomes.
  • Why the pilot is only Bathurst to Jarvis, and not longer on either side? The answer, Bathurst to Jarvis is long enough (2.4km) to measure the heaviest and most intense area's traffic, and this section has parallel roads which can handle rerouted traffic. 
  • Where will those who park their cars on King now be able to park? Th answer, that the 180 on-street parking spaces can easily be accommodated in the 7,800 spaces available within a five minute radius.

King Street Pilot Project, TorontoThe four panelists during the question and answer period, image by Greg Lipinski

The next steps include a TTC Board Meeting on June 15, followed by a City Executive Committee Meeting on June 19. A few weeks later on July 5-7, the pilot project will go before City Council, where a decision on it will be made. Assuming it gets the green light, Phase Three of the project will move forward, focusing on implementation and monitoring. This will consist of a public education and awareness campaign, a detailed design and procurement, and develop an evaluation, monitoring, and data collection program. If all stays on track, the pilot will kick off this Fall, with other elements to be installed in Spring 2018. 

More information about the King Street Pilot can be found on the City of Toronto's official website, linked here. An opportunity to fill out an online survey regarding the project is available until June 10, and can be found on this link. We will keep you up-to-date as more information becomes available in the coming weeks. Want to share your thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment in the space provided below, or join in the ongoing discussion in our dedicated Forum thread.