TTC streetcars and buses operating along King Streets East and West between River and Dufferin Streets serve the busiest surface transit corridor in Toronto. They carry as many as 65,000 passengers every Monday to Friday.
Despite the large number of riders on King streetcars, service is often slow and erratic. Streetcars share the street with other traffic and left-turning vehicles often delay the cars. In many cases at many times of the day, pedestrians can walk faster than the streetcars can travel the same distance.
King Street is also an important east-west traffic artery in downtown Toronto, connecting many neighbourhoods with the largest concentration of jobs in the city, region, and country. The King Street corridor will continue to grow significantly in population and employment in the coming decades, leading to further demand on these already heavily congested transit routes.
Moreover, even though most people travel by transit on King Street and very few by car, the design allocates the most space to motorists.
Over the past few years, the TTC has made operational changes to improve streetcar service, including: allowing all-door loading (to become more effective with the new low-floor streetcars); adding supplemental buses; extending turning and on-street parking restrictions; optimizing transit stop locations and route running times; adding route supervisors; and improving night service.
But, staff acknowledge that operational changes can only achieve so much — King Street needs “something bigger” to truly unlock the potential of the corridor.
They’ve studied the street between Dufferin and River Streets to come up with ways to speed up transit service.
They also hope to improve the overall design of the street, while continuing to support businesses on King.
Streetcar speeds are erratic in this area and service reliability is unpredictable especially during the busiest time of the week, Mondays to Fridays before about 7 p.m.
Last Monday, February 13, staff, led by the City’s chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, presented three options for improving the street. The City and its partners intend to develop one of these options as a temporary pilot project, hopefully, by next year.
According to the City’s website, “Pilot projects are an efficient and cost-effective way for cities to quickly test out new ideas… to learn important lessons about what works and what doesn’t. The City can monitor and collect data to measure how [the pilot meets] overall objectives… and make adjustments before [making] a larger investment in permanent infrastructure… Pilot projects also offer an opportunity to [discuss new ideas] with stakeholders and the public.”
The three options (Option B has two sub-options):
Since the east end of the study area has more nearby streets to handle traffic that would usually travel along King, the City has decided to pilot the project between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets — and possibly as far east as Parliament Street. This area is where streetcar ridership on the King corridor is also the highest.
About 300 people attended the first public meeting on February 13. The City and its partners intend to consult further with residents, business owners and members of the public to narrow the three options down to just one. They expect to present a final pilot project plan to the Toronto Transit Commission and then City Council to consider late this spring. They also intend to start implementing the plan this fall.
From the Transit Toronto archives: