Plan to fix 'horrible' King Street gets mixed reviews from community

Community members have the chance to offer input on the pilot project that's slotted for the stretch of King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets.

Community members have a chance to share input on the current plan until June 10

Community members have the chance to offer input on the King Street pilot project, slotted for the stretch of King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis streets. (Canadian Press)

Carlo Trevisan's whole life revolves around King Street.

For nearly a decade, he's lived around King Street West  and Bathurst Street with his wife and kids, his brother has a retail showroom at King and Berkeley Streets, and Trevisan has an office at King Street East and Parliament Street.

And to get back and forth  between them, he avoids his own street entirely — saying it would be 55-minute streetcar ride — and, instead, hops on the highway.

"I'm excited someone recognized just how horrible King Street is," he told CBC Toronto at the Thursday night community meeting unveiling the King Street pilot project, which was met with a mix of praise and concern from attendees.

Slotted for the stretch of King Street between Bathurst Street and Jarvis Street, the project could start transforming the thoroughfare this fall into a street designed for transit riders — not drivers — with local traffic only and a separate corridor for streetcars.

"It's really about speeding up our streetcars on King, making them more reliable, and also hopefully improving capacity," said Chris Upfold, deputy chief executive officer with the TTC.

It's not set in stone just yet, though. The pilot project is heading to the TTC board on June 15, followed by Mayor John Tory's executive committee on June 19 and all of council in early July.

Coun. Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 20, is optimistic council will pass it.

"As the local councilor, one of the things I believe is you need to get it in quickly," he said. "You can debate endlessly the details, but at the end of the day, you need to get it started."

'They're trying to push this through too fast'

That sentiment doesn't sit well with Tom Dunn, who has an office on King Street West and owns property on King Street East.

"I think they're trying to push this through too fast and I think the businesses are being left hung out to dry," he said.

With so many businesses, hotels, and restaurants on the thoroughfare, Dunn worries the project could inhibit traffic to the area.

City planners disagree. Their data shows less than three per cent of parking spots within a five minute walk of King Street would be lost to make room for the pilot project, and around 50 per cent of the existing traffic on King Street would simply switch to a nearby alternate route.

Still, Dunn wasn't the only one raising red flags at Thursday's meeting. 

Some attendees expressed concern over the proposal, which would allow local traffic access only, forcing drivers to make right-turn "loops" within the pilot stretch of King Street to use parallel routes such as Queen, Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington and Front streets.

Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, director of Transportation Infrastructure Management for the city, acknowledges the changes might be confusing at first, but said the city has already met with police about enforcement, which will include both education and ticket blitzes.

She also anticipates many drivers will change their travel plans well before the pilot area, and might opt for transit instead.

Other attendees questioned why the clogged street doesn't just go car-free — or why streetcars aren't replaced with buses. 

Car-free won't work because of loading and delivery needs, and the need to serve taxis and Wheel-Trans vehicles, Hayward Gulati told the large crowd at the InterContinental Toronto Centre's ballroom.

And buses? They're "inefficient and costly."

But there's a cost to the pilot project too, of course: A high-level budget estimate of $1.5 million, Hayward Gulati said, though that figure depends on what happens in the design phase.

The community has a chance to share input on the current plan until June 10.


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