Transit must be main priority on King Street in $1.5M pilot project, city staff report says

City staff has outlined recommendations for a one-year King Street pilot proposal between Bathurst and Jarvis that prioritizes streetcars and TTC riders over drivers and includes no dedicated bike lanes.

Cars, streetcars would share lanes but drivers would be forced to turn right at intersections

City staff have revealed details on what they would recommend the King Street pilot project look like. (CBC)

After months of public consultations, city staff have come up with recommendations for a $1.5 million King Street pilot proposal between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets that puts a priority on public transit.

The one-year pilot project would mean the removal of 180 on-street parking spaces and no dedicated bike lanes.

City staff is recommending in a report that cars share lanes with streetcars but drivers would be forced to turn right at intersections so they could not travel more than one block before turning.

The goal is to clear the way for the 504 King streetcar to ensure it moves efficiently. The emphasis in the report is on improving "transit reliability, speed and capacity" on the King Street route. That means TTC riders and streetcars will take precedence over drivers.

The King streetcar carries 65,000 riders on an average weekday.

Drivers would be forced to turn right under the city's recommendations for the King Street pilot project to clear the way for the 504 streetcar route. (City of Toronto)

"King Street is not currently working well for transit," the report reads.

"Streetcar service can be slow, unreliable, and erratic, with unpredictable travel times, especially during rush hours, but also during some late evening and weekend times. People end up having to plan for their slowest trip.

"Along some parts of King Street, walking is sometimes faster, especially between Bathurst Street and Jarvis Street, where we see the most traffic congestion. When streetcars do arrive, they are often overcrowded, especially in rush hours."

There will be space for cyclists in the curb lane but no dedicated bike lanes. 

In May, the city revealed a "transit first" redesign of King Street that wouldn't include a ban on cars, which was once considered an option. 

What King Street looks like right now

According to sources, staff admit that they have already tried a number of "operational tweaks" such as parking restrictions, increasing fines, installing "no left turn" signs and altering streetcar route timings to enhance transit performance on King Street.

Currently, the King streetcar operates in mixed traffic and doesn't fulfil its transit potential, city staff say. (City of Toronto)

The city says cars are currently given priority, even though transit moves three times more people than the 20,000 private vehicles taking the street every weekday.

According to city staff, the street is failing to operate effectively as a major transit corridor, with the TTC estimating that the streetcar route is 20 per cent over capacity and that during certain times of the day, it's faster to walk than to ride the streetcar.

'Parallel streets will have to adjust'

The city expects half of the existing traffic on King Street to disseminate across parallel corridors as a result of the pilot project. 

This would mean more traffic on Queen, Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington and Front streets.

According to sources, staff will be monitoring the surrounding network of traffic to make sure it's moving. 

The recommendations still have to be voted on. 

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.