How riders and drivers navigated the 1st rush hour commute of the King Street pilot project
Vehicles are not allowed to drive through intersections or park on the street inside the project zone
Confused drivers struggled to navigate new traffic rules while transit riders enjoyed a faster-than-usual commute on the first weekday of the King Street pilot project.
The scene played out repeatedly during the morning rush hour, as police officers blew their whistles at drivers who attempted to drive straight through intersections, which is now illegal between Bathurst and Jarvis along King Street.
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"For every one we stop, probably 10 go by that aren't following the rules," said Const. Clint Stibbe of Toronto Police Traffic Services.
The year-long pilot project is designed to give streetcars priority along the busy downtown corridor. The route is used by more than 65,000 daily transit riders, making it the busiest surface route in Toronto's entire transit system.
Private vehicles are now forced to make a right turn off King Street at every intersection, and all on-street parking has been removed.
The city has also painted new lane markings, installed barriers and put up new traffic signs in an effort to divert vehicles from the route.
At approximately 8:30 a.m. Monday, CBC Toronto timed an eastbound trip along the course of the pilot project at 12 minutes and 52 seconds, more than two minutes faster than the same trip at the same time the previous Friday.
It was not a rigorous, scientific study, however a TTC staffer told CBC Toronto they've also consistently timed the route in the 12 to 13 minute range during the first two days of the project.
'I don't really know what's happening'
Drivers who flout the rules were pulled over by police and given a warning and instructional card explaining the new rules.
Stibbe said any drivers who violate the rules a second time will be ticketed.
"The reality is you have to take the long way around whether you like it or not," he said.
After Monday morning, dozens of drivers are now in that category, including Mark James, who was pulled over just east of Bathurst Street. He said he hadn't heard about the pilot project.
"I don't really know what's happening but apparently I'm not allowed to drive on King Street anymore," he said, adding that he now supports the experiment.
"If this helps in terms of commuter traffic and people going to work, then why not try it?"
David Fraser was also warned after driving through an intersection, which he thought was permitted if he made a right turn at the end of the next block. It is not.
"It just means we won't use King Street anymore," he said.
"Progress is about change," Fraser added. "So we've got to abide by it."
TTC riders praise immediate results
Inside the streetcar, riders praised the temporary new rules and said they were impressed by the immediate returns, although many workers were off Monday due to the displaced Remembrance Day holiday.
"It's a lot faster; I'm getting there a lot quicker," said Vivian Tong, just before exiting at the King subway station.
"It's been way faster for me. I think it's going to be really good if it keeps up like this," said TTC rider Andy Kelly, before adding that overcrowding was still a problem on the route.
"Maybe get some more streetcars because it's been really crowded, but other than that I think it's pretty good," Kelly said.
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) says it will measure the success of the project by examining transit times, ridership and reliability.
"This is about putting people on transit first, about moving people more quickly, more reliably," said TTC spokesperson Brad Ross.
He's asking the public to give two weeks for the confused drivers and other kinks to resolve themselves.
"We think that it will work itself out," Ross said. "People will have to adjust and adapt to this new reality that is King Street."