Toronto

Hockey players take to King Street to send message pilot project is 'a mess'

Al Carbone has made headlines with his various methods of demonstrating against the King Street pilot project. Tuesday afternoon he executed yet another display - road hockey on King Street.

Kit Kat restaurant owner used road hockey as demonstration of 'empty space' on King Street

Friends, family and employees of Kit Kat restaurant owner Al Carbone participated in a game of road hockey on King Street Tuesday afternoon in protest to the pilot project.

Kit Kat owner Al Carbone has used a variety of methods — such as a middle-finger-shaped ice sculpture— to show his displeasure with the King Street pilot project.

That list grew Tuesday afternoon to include a game of road hockey right on King Street to send a message that the transit "needs a lot of help." Players consisted of friends, family and employees of Carbone.

"It's such a ghost town down here, we want to take advantage of the street. So the boys decided to play road hockey," Carbone said.

The pilot project started in November 2017 to increase the speed and capacity of the King street car, which is the busiest surface transit route in the city.

'This is not working'

According to the December update from the city for pilot project data, streetcars are up to four minutes faster in both directions. But some businesses in the area have reported a decline in revenue because there is less traffic in the area.

"They killed our Christmas season, which was going to carry us through the winter months...it's just a mess, it's not well thought-out," Carbone said.

In addition to the hockey, Carbone has set up ice sculptures with the themes "Make King Street Great Again" and "SOS" (Save our Streets). He also had a free food station to attract public attention.
Kit Kat restaurant owner Al Carbone had a variety of ice sculptures made to attract attention to his King Street pilot project protest. One of them on display Tuesday afternoon read 'Make King St. Great Again."

When traffic or street cars needed to pass, the hockey players moved out of the way and often urged passersby to honk or cheer in support of their cause.

"We're not impeding traffic, we're trying to get attention. This is not working," Carbone said. "The transit needs a lot of help and a lot of repair."

Effects of the project are 'devastating'

"Um...I might cry," said hockey mom and wife Erin Skalde when asked about the demonstration Tuesday. She has been a customer of Kit Kat for 23 years.

"I couldn't imagine being a business down here and having your livelihood and your family impacted in this way. I mean when you think about the restaurant, our kids grew up and have had naps in the booths at Kit Kat... It's quite devastating," she said.

Carbone isn't the only restaurant owner claiming an impact on business.

Robert Garabedian is the owner of Maki My Way, a custom sushi restaurant near Kit Kat in the strip of restaurants around King and John Streets. He said his restaurant has been impacted due to lack of traffic and predicts some restaurants will go out of business if no changes are made to the project.

"We're pro-transit, but there was better solutions," Garabedian said. "There will be some impact if something doesn't happen soon."

But not everyone agrees with the road hockey demonstration.

Sobia Asghar is from Toronto and often takes the 504 King streetcar. Although she thinks the city needs a find a balance to make both business owners and commuters happy, she said there's "other ways" to handle the issue.

"I think the street car is important, it's really important piece of King Street. To discredit that somehow...it's not cool," Asghar said.

Employees nervous 

"We lost the vibe on King Street. Over 25 years we all built up this [street] with independent businesses, small businesses, family businesses...we created a tourist destination," said Kevin Gosselin, who has been working as a waiter at Kit Kat restaurant for 18 years. "There's no more sense that you're in a place that's exciting."

Gosselin said he's worried that he won't have anywhere to work if Kit Kat goes out of business.

"I don't know who hires old waiters like me anymore," he said.

Amid worry from multiple employees about the decline in business and tip money, Carbone said the city can expect more protests in the future.

"They're not over and they're going to get worse. As long as this pilot keeps running, we run our campaign," Carbone said.

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