King Street was revamped for an ambitious pilot project — is the route actually any faster?

Nearly two weeks into a pilot project that's turned King Street into a streetcar-focused thoroughfare, commuters aren't convinced they're saving time during rush hour.

Overcrowded streetcars remain an issue, say commuters and the TTC

The city has installed barricades and introduced new turn restrictions for private vehicles travelling on King Street for the project. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Almost two weeks into the ambitious pilot project that's transformed King Street into a transit-centred thoroughfare, is commuting on the route actually any faster?

It depends on who you ask.

During the Friday morning rush at King and Bathurst streets — the western end of the pilot zone, which extends to Jarvis Street — frustrated commuters waited as a series of overcrowded streetcars pulled up to the stop.

"I haven't noticed much of a difference, myself, just because of the issue of not being able to get on a streetcar," said Victoria Gorobets.

Several overcrowded streetcars passed the stop at Bathurst Street and King Street West during the Friday morning rush hour. That's nothing new, according to commuters. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

"It's still a little bit slow, obviously. A lot of streetcars pass," said Evelyne Wright. "But I find once you actually get on that it's going a little bit faster."

Inside the streetcar, it's clear that no consensus has emerged.

Commuters split on improvements

Maria Cheung said that to her eyes, the streetcars appear to be more crowded than they were before the pilot project.

Thursday was especially bad, she said.

"There was about seven TTC cars that came by," Cheung said of the delay, which added 20 minutes to her commute.

"It's the same, pretty much," said Lakam Temidire, who boards the streetcar slightly before the notoriously busy Liberty Village station. "It took me 15 minutes to get to work; still takes me 15 minutes to get to work."

Lakam Temidire says his commute time hasn't changed since the pilot project began. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

"I think it's a lot quicker," countered Sean Bejimal, sitting opposite Temidire. He commutes from Spadina Avenue to Bay Street.

"Typically a five-to-10-minute drive is now a couple minutes," he said of the new route.

In a non-scientific study conducted by CBC Toronto, travelling the length of the pilot zone took 13 minutes and 50 seconds Friday morning. That's around a minute faster than a previous measurement on the first weekday of the project.

CBC Toronto's Nick Boisvert rides the length of King Street pilot project and times his ride. 1:23

Overcrowding still an issue

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has not yet compiled statistics about the revamped route, but it says anecdotal evidence points to improved commute times, along with a possible increase in ridership.

However, TTC spokesperson Brad Ross acknowledges the ongoing capacity issues on the line.

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross says the King Street line needs more transit vehicles, but delayed deliveries from Bombardier of the new Flexity streetcars have slowed that process. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

"Crowded subway trains and buses is normal at rush hour, of course. Leaving people back at stops is not something we want to do," he told CBC Toronto.

The TTC currently runs 54 streetcars on King Street during peak hours, and says it will put more vehicles on the line as soon as they become available.

But Ross said delayed deliveries from Bombardier of the new Flexity streetcars have contributed to the capacity issues on the route.

"We are relying on Bombardier to deliver what they promise to deliver," he said.

The new vehicles are arriving "every couple of days," Ross added, and that getting them onto King Street is at the top of the TTC's to-do list.

About the Author

Nick Boisvert

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Nick Boisvert is a reporter and one-man band video journalist based in Toronto. He previously worked for the CBC in Vancouver, Windsor and Kitchener-Waterloo. When he’s not chasing politicians or driving to a crime scene, Nick enjoys cooking, comedy and following the NBA.