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TTC has staggering proposal to fix King St.

Joseph Hall

The TTC is proposing a massive reconfiguration of King St. that would allow cars to drive no more than a block along any section of the downtown roadway.

Aimed at giving streetcars a free run over the crucial central artery, the plan would avoid a proposed ban on all automobile traffic and permit the truck deliveries and taxi pickups that area businesses have demanded.

The plan, which will be presented at a commission meeting tomorrow, proposes to use alternately widened sidewalks to prevent cars from travelling more than a block in any one direction.

Under the proposal, King’s two current centre lanes would be reserved, almost exclusively, for streetcar traffic.

By alternately widening the sidewalks - on the north side over one block and the south side over the next - the plan would force cars using the street’s outer lanes to turn right at each oncoming intersection.

“Cars and delivery vehicles can come on to the street and do whatever they need to do, but then they have to get off at the next intersection,” says Mitch Stambler, head of the TTC’s service planning.

“They must turn right when they get to any corner because they can’t go through with a sidewalk facing them on the other side.”

The plan would effectively turn King into a series of one-way streets with a two-way transit route running along its length.

Stambler says automobiles would be able to use the streetcar tracks to pass delivery vehicles stopped in the outer lanes.

But, he says, it would be illegal to carry on through an intersection or make a left-hand turn from the tracks.

Under the plan, parking would also be banned along the entire street.

To ensure motorists do not use the dedicated transit lanes, TTC commissioner Howard Moscoe wants to install cameras on the front of streetcars to nab violators.

Moscoe says cameras similar to those now being installed in Toronto taxis could be mounted on the front of streetcars for about $1,200 apiece. They could then record the licence plates of cars illegally using dedicated streetcar space.

The King St. reconfiguration plan is being presented as the TTC releases the results of a police blitz to ticket drivers who illegally parked, stopped or made left turns along that roadway.

Despite the blitz, Stambler says huge numbers of drivers still ignored posted traffic restrictions aimed at increasing streetcar flow, proving the TTC cannot rely on voluntary compliance with traffic signs to open the road for its vehicles.

During the 10-week blitz, which began last September, the TTC spent more than $100,000 to hire off-duty police officers to crack down on traffic violators along the downtown portion of King.

“We spent a lot of money to hire police to enforce existing traffic regulations, but clearly that wasn’t enough of a deterrent,” Stambler says.

“People just kept ignoring the existing traffic regulations and even in the blitz there was virtually no let-up.”

During the blitz, police issued 7,191 tickets for traffic and parking violations, with no significant reductions in the weekly totals as the project unfolded.

Stambler says he would like to see the King St. transit route run “at least between Dufferin and Parliament Sts.”

Wider sidewalks could give King St. a `European’ flair

If the project is okayed and proves successful, it could be moved north to Queen St., he says.

He says the idea of wider sidewalks, now being discussed with the city’s planning department, would also give the downtown a more “European” flair and could help businesses by making the area more pedestrian friendly.

Streetcars carry about 2,660 people on King St. past Spadina Ave. in the hour between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. About 1,040 people in private cars pass that intersection during the same period.

By easing the flow of streetcars on any section of roadway, the TTC can use fewer vehicles to serve more people with the same waiting times.