Toronto’s King Street transit solution & its impact on the local neighbourhoods

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The city will study the impact on local neighbourhoods and businesses when it implements a pilot project—possibly later this year—along King Street to speed up streetcar travel.

The project has its eye on a 6 km stretch of King from Dufferin Street at Liberty Village to River Street near the Distillery District.

“Consultation and engagement is a critical part of the King Street Pilot Study, and a variety of community and neighbourhood groups, businesses and BIAs, and other key stakeholders will be involved throughout the study,” Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s chief planner and executive director, told a few hundred people at a special Metro Hall meeting in February.

“Recognizing the diverse identities of the various neighbourhoods that are adjacent to the corridor is a critical part of this pilot project,” Keesmaat said.

But make no mistake, she said, “this is about (streetcar) transit first.”

That means cars on King will take a back seat to streetcars. And why not, some might ask, considering city studies show that

75 percent of King users travels by streetcar, foot or bicycle. King is moving only 16 percent of its users by cars, yet cars get 64 percent of the space.

So far, city staff have come up with three options for the pilot project. They include separated streetcar lanes; a barrier in streetcar lanes to inhibit private car use; a ban on left turns and curbside stopping; specified loading areas for deliveries, pick-ups and drop-offs; and cyclists and cars sharing a curbside lane but only on one side of the road.

According to city spokesperson Bruce Hawkins, the proposed three options would “generally eliminate” street parking on sections of King. Because of that, staff will look at setting up specific loading zones on King and side streets.

“On a block where the expected loading activity cannot be accommodated with one design option, another design may be substituted,” Hawkins said. “This is a good example of how the design of the street could be different from block to block.”

At the February meeting, Keesmaat said small businesses are getting behind the project.

“One of the things we’ve heard from the retailers is that one of the reasons small businesses support the pilot … is because they hear from customers that they don’t hop on and hop off the transit for a few different reasons,” Keesmaat said.

One of those reasons is that riders, who managed to get a seat on one streetcar, worry they won’t get a seat on another if they hop off to shop.

David Hunter, Toronto’s senior transportation planner, said the city would conduct a business economic impact study to learn how the project will affect King retailers.

“Business is an important part of King Street. We need to understand the impact this pilot might have on them,” he said. “We’re working with the local BIAs and the local non-BIA businesses to do that.”

Dana Duncanson, the spokesperson for the Entertainment District BIA, said King stakeholders have already met with the city to outline their needs.

“We provided feedback to the City on the importance of ensuring that delivery and patron drop-off access points are incorporated into the design,” said Duncanson.

City staff hope to complete a report on the pilot by June. If the city council adopts it, staff could implement the pilot by this fall.


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