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King Street transit priority corridor:
Staff present "preferred" option to pilot

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TTC streetcars 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.

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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.

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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.

Since July, 2016, TTC, City of Toronto and Toronto Parking Authority staff have been reviewing options for improving King Street, and transit service in particular.

They’ve studied the street between Dufferin and River Streets to come up with ways to speed up transit service.

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They also hope to improve the overall design of the street, while continuing to support businesses on King. King pilot study goals.jpg

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.

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Tonight, Thursday, May 18, City, TTC and Parking Authority staff presented the option they prefer to develop on King Street as a pilot project this fall. (In February, they offered three possibilities for the pilot. The feedback they received during that event helped them narrow the choice to just one.)

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. Staff can monitor and collect data to measure how the pilot meets overall objectives and adjust the plan before before the City invests in permanent infrastructure. Pilot projects also offer an opportunity to discuss outcomes and new ideas with stakeholders and the public.

Staff propose implementing the pilot project between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets. Under this plan, only streetcar passengers, cyclists and pedestrians could travel through the entire length of this section of the corridor. Motorists would share the streetcar tracks, but could only drive for one block before they would have to turn right onto a side street.

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Streetcar stops would be farside (meaning beyond intersections), instead of nearside. The City and TTC would paint murals on the street so that everyone could readily identify where transit passengers would be boarding and exiting from the cars. A “bump-out” from the sidewalk would physically separate the transit-stop area from all other traffic.

A bicycle lane would run between the sidewalk and the streetcar tracks. In some locations, street amenities such as seating, planters, patios, bike parking would expand the sidewalk closer to the bicycle lane. Each block would also contain an area for loading and unloading trucks.

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The City would prohibit on-street parking on this section of King. According to staff, the 180 parking spaces currently on King represent less than three per cent of the total 7,800 spaces within a five-minute walk of the street.

This summer, staff will present the proposal first to the Toronto Transit Commission and then to City Council to consider and, hopefully, approve, so that they can implement the pilot this fall.