King Street pilot project should be permanent, city staff report says

The King Street pilot project should be made permanent, according to a new city report, which will go to a vote at council’s executive committee next week.

Pilot prioritizes streetcar traffic on King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis streets

Mayor John Tory announced Tuesday that a new report by city staff recommends making the King Street pilot project permanent. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

The King Street pilot project should be made permanent, according to a new city report, which will go to a vote at council's executive committee next week.

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.

On Tuesday, Mayor John Tory said he will vote in favour of making the transit corridor permanent at next week's executive committee meeting.

"I believe this bold action is the right thing to do for our modern and growing city," he said.

Depending on what happens at the executive committee, the report will go to city council on April 16.

According to the report, the pilot has been a resounding success for those commuting via transit — some 30,000 minutes of travel time are saved by travellers each day. Daily ridership has also improved, growing by 16 per cent from 72,000 to 84,000 boardings per day.

Those commuters are also saving time, according to the report.

Comparing the month of December 2018 to before the pilot was introduced:

  • The slowest travel times during afternoon peak service have improved by between four and five minutes.
  • Travel times during the morning peak period remained about the same.
  • Eastbound travel times improved from 25 to 20 minutes.
  • Westbound travel times improved from 24 to 20 minutes.

The report also notes that there have been 45 "unique amenities" introduced along the route, including cafes, art installations, public seating areas, bike-share stations and parklets. 

Spending down slightly, report finds

Meanwhile, 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.

The manager of Patagonia, Cory Gould, says foot traffic has increased after the King Street pilot. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC )

That dip was mainly for restaurants. Retailers, like Patagonia, have experienced an increase in foot traffic. 

"Sales have improved," said Cory Gould, manager of Patagonia. "We advocate for people to take transit, cycle or walk, to promote that active lifestyle...So now the pilot makes it easier for people to get to our store." 

Tory says the city will continue to monitor spending and he expects the street to thrive in the future.

"I believe that King Street will continue to be a magnet for residents and tourists as this project becomes permanent and we work to improve amenities along the street," the mayor said.

King Street is the busiest surface transit route in North America and the third-busiest transit route in Toronto, Tory told reporters at a morning news conference.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, whose ward includes part of the pilot project route, said feedback from her constituents indicates the pilot has been "a resounding success."

"I don't believe there's ever been a project studied as closely as the King Street pilot," she said at Tuesday's news conference.

If passed by the mayor's executive committee next week, staff will look into what changes are needed to improve the pilot. This includes better signage and road markings to ensure drivers don't drive straight through the intersections.  

With files from Lauren Pelley and Natalie Nanowski


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