King Street overcrowding

Overcrowding turns nasty on the King streetcar line

Streetcars have been moving faster and more reliably along King St. over the past month, according to newly-released data from the City of Toronto.

Rush hour travel times are, on average, between 40 seconds and 2.6 minutes shorter than they were before the launch of the King Street Pilot Project, and, despite what you might hear from some motorists, driving times have increased by less than a minute on neighbouring streets.

As someone who rides the line twice a day, I can tell you that all of the above rings true.

The streetcars do proceed more quickly through the downtown core without so many motorists clogging up the road, and there aren't as many clumps of five streetcars appearing at once after 40 minutes of crickets.

But that doesn't necessarily mean passengers are getting to work any more easily. Far from it.

Toronto's busiest streetcar line has long been known for how crowded it can get. An estimated 65,000 people ride the King streetcar every single weekday, many of them during the same two periods of time.

Riders have been complaining about how jam-packed the King cars are even more than usual since the start of the pilot project last month, and now that winter is really, really here, the problem is coming to a head.

Hundreds of people were left waiting in the blistering cold along King Street Tuesday morning as streetcar upon streetcar soared past with no room for anyone else to get on.

At least 80 people were waiting at King and Strachan this morning as seven full sardine cans TTC vehicles came by in a row, some of those people literally pushing each other out of the way for a single spot on the streetcar stairs.

I waited approximately 45 minutes at that stop until I could squeeze onto one of the new, longer streetcars, where things only got worse in terms of human behaviour.

I haven't taken a ride on the 504 in weeks during which at least one passenger didn't push or yell at someone else for trying to come aboard.

Whether it's the weather, a lack of cabs that will drive near King, or all the positive attention the Pilot Project has brought to this already busy transit route, the overcrowding problem is getting worse. I mean, what good is a fast streetcar if you can never actually catch one?

The TTC is aware of the problem, and has been taking action to alleviate some of the congestion – but there's little the transit agency can do without more streetcars.

Fingers crossed that nobody seriously hurts anyone else – or freezes while waiting at a stop – before Bombardier finally delivers.

Lead photo by

Lauren O'Neil


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