City of Toronto staff are recommending that King Street continue to operate as a transit priority corridor and recent research by the City-Building Institute (CBI) at Ryerson University strongly supports their recommendation.

A TTC streetcar cruises through the pilot-project area. Temporary farside passenger infrastructure in the foreground, image, James Bow, Transit Toronto

The City and TTC launched the King Street Transit Pilot Sunday, November 12 to improve transit reliability, speed and capacity along the 504 King route between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets. Route 504 is the TTC's busiest streetcar or bus route.

Since the pilot, the City says, the number of passengers aboard streetcars on King has increased by nearly 17 per cent to 84,000 riders per day. Afternoon rush-hour travel times have improved by about four to five minutes (decreasing from about 25 minutes to 20 minutes).

The City developed temporary seating areas on King Street during the pilot, image, City of Toronto

According to the City staff report, vehicle travel times during the morning and afternoon rush hours on east-west streets parallel to King have increased by just less than a minute. On north-south streets, travel times are nearly the same.

The report also recommends making permanent the transit stops that the City and TTC relocated to the far side of most intersections, including relocating transit shelters, where feasible.

Last September, CBI crunched the numbers to estimate the value of time-savings resulting from the pilot’s reducing travel and wait times. During its calculation, it made a number of assumptions about the data for the King Street Pilot and estimated savings of $11.5 million annually. Following the city’s recent release of new data, CBI updated its methodology and calculation and found time savings equal to $12.6 million. (The City of Toronto places an even higher value on the time savings generated, estimating an economic value of $27 million per year.)

In its report, "King Street By the Numbers", CBI argues that, "At $1.5 million to implement and another $1.5 million to make permanent, the King Street Transit Pilot is a total bargain. Compare this to the planned one-stop Scarborough Subway extension, which carries an estimated price tag of of $3.89 billion and a projected daily ridership of only 31,000. Or the City’s investment to rebuild and reconfigure the Gardiner East (Jarvis to the Don Valley), with a capital budget of $718 million to serve just 110,000 vehicles per day."

Traffic regulations mostly prohibit through traffic and left turns in the area, image, City of Toronto

CBI also tackles the issues of parking and pedestrians on King Street and whether the pilot has impacted businesses:

"While 180 on-street parking spaces were removed for the King Pilot, approximately 98% of the 8,000 existing spaces within a five-minute walk of the study area were left untouched, and 100 new on-street spaces were added on side streets. This resulted in a net loss of only 1% of total area parking spaces. There remains ample parking available near King Street, and drivers still have good access to their destinations.

"At the same time, pedestrians continue to flock to King Street. An improved and expanded pedestrian environment with public realm enhancements (including nine new restaurant patios) have helped to stabilize foot traffic on King Street. Pedestrian activity on King is comparable to pre-pilot figures, and in line with seasonal patterns and trends on comparable east-west streets, including Queen. Meanwhile, customer spending on King Street remains strong. Year-over-year growth in both retail and service spending in the pilot area increased, while growth in restaurant spending showed a slight dip (in line with city-wide and area trends)--showing that a reduction in car traffic does not result in less commercial activity: cars don’t shop; people do."

A TTC car passes the Princess of Wales Theatre in the pilot-project area, image, James Bow, Transit Toronto

The City's Executive Committee will consider the staff's report during its meeting Tuesday, April 9. The Toronto Transit Commission—the TTC board of directors—discusses the report Thursday, April 11 and Toronto City Council reviews the staff recommendations Tuesday, April 16 and Wednesday, April 17.

What do you think of the pilot? Do you think it should be permanent? Add your comments in the form below, or join the discussion in our dedicated Forum thread.