City council votes to make King Street pilot permanent

Toronto City Council voted Tuesday to make the King Street pilot project permanent, while also voting to monitor how the project performs over time.

Mayor John Tory says move is a 'a very good step forward'

Toronto city council voted Tuesday to make King Street from Jarvis Street to Bathurst Street a permanent transit-priority corridor. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Toronto city council has voted to make the King Street transit pilot permanent. 

The pilot project, which prioritizes streetcar traffic along a 2.6-kilometre stretch of King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis streets, has been in force since November 2017. It restricts through-traffic at a majority of intersections.

"I'm very gratified at the vote," said Mayor John Tory. "I think this will prove to be a very big step forward to make this permanent for transit riders and for city building in general."

The vote was 22-3 in favour, with only three councillors — Michael Ford, Stephen Holyday and Jim Karygiannis — voting against.

Etobicoke Coun. Stephen Holyday said he wore rose coloured glasses in council to highlight the need for his fellow councillors to 'filter out the fanfare' and look at the details of the staff report. (City of Toronto)

"People approach this whole project with with too much optimism, I think, and allowed it to pass without too much scrutiny," said Etobicoke Coun. Stephen Holyday citing measures including the introduction of the TTC's new streetcars during the pilot and concern from local business owners

As part of the decision to make the pilot permanent, council also voted to make improvements to streetscaping along the corridor. 

Coun. Joe Cressy says the move will "expand the public realm," including 45 new permanent patios, and designated enhanced lighting. 

"We have a real opportunity in 2023 when King Street has its track repair done to create a brand new destination street for the 21st century," the downtown councillor said. 

Toronto city council also voted unanimously to pass a motion put forward by Mayor John Tory to continue to monitor and assess the performance of the project.

Staff recommended pilot be made permanent

City staff say the pilot moved people more efficiently on transit. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

City staff found the pilot shortened travel times for transit users, while increasing transit ridership. A recent staff report found that:

  • 30,000 minutes of travel time are saved by travellers each day.
  • Ridership increased 16 per cent from 72,000 to 84,000 boardings per day.
  • 25 per cent more customers boarded per hour of service.

The 504 King streetcar is the busiest surface route in Toronto.

For businesses along the route, the report found that during the 12-month period before the pilot was installed compared to the 12-month period after it was installed, year-over-year growth in total spending along King Street decreased slightly from 2.5 per cent to 1.7 per cent.

There was little change to average travel times of cars, forced to move off of King Street to other streets, according to the report. 

Advocates pushing for more transit priority corridors

Transit advocate group TTCriders says it hopes the TTC will look at making transit a priority on other busy surface routes.

"It just doesn't make sense for 75 people squished on a bus to be stuck behind a handful of single-passenger vehicles," Milan Gokhale, spokesperson for TTCriders, said in a statement.

In the report tabled to council, staff say they're working with the TTC to identify "various transit priority measures for implementation on surface transit corridors."

"We'd like to take this model and replicate it right across the city," Cressy said. 

"I am pretty certain that we will see other proposals come up in the future and that's why the public needs to pay attention to these decisions," warned Holyday.

With files from Lauren Pelley