King Street pilot

Toronto can't seem to agree on future of King St.

It's been just over a month since Toronto launched its groundbreaking King Street Pilot Project, and while reaction so far has been mixed, it's safe to say that we've all noticed changes. Really big changes.

Some 65,000 people who ride the streetcar along King St. every day are, for the most part, pretty pleased with their quicker, more reliable commutes.

Sure, overcrowding is still a problem , but it has been for many, many years – and will likely improve a great deal when Bombardier finally delivers the more than 100 new streetcars it owes us.

Advocates for motorists, on the other hand – like Toronto mayoral candidate Doug Ford – have complained that the pilot project is making streets which run parallel to King more congested.

A new data set released earlier this week by the city shows that this might not actually be the case.

While rush hour travel times for streetcar riders are now, on average, up to 2.6 minutes shorter, The City of Toronto says that car travel time has only increased by less than a minute on neighbouring streets.

Plus, there are still plenty of cars using King Street – a lot of them risking $110 fines and two demerit points to use it the wrong way.

And then there are the business owners.

The Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association recently sent out a survey to business owners along King Street West.

A total of 92 people responded, according to The Star, with 97 per cent of those respondents saying they "disapprove of the pilot."

Ninety per cent of the respondents, about two-thirds of which were restaurant owners, say they want the pilot project to end immediately.

These merchants say that the pilot project - which prohibits parking on King Street and forces cars to turn right at most major intersections – has caused a drop in sales ranging from 5 to 25 per cent.

As news of that survey spreads, others around the city are suggesting that the numbers don't quite add up.

"It's just not logical that the 180 removed parking spots (3% of total in pilot zone) were sustaining businesses on King, let alone 5-25% of business," wrote local Twitter user Colin Powell. "Think about it."

"I'm tired of this argument from store owners," wrote another local transit user. "There could be so many reasons business is down... and I have to get to my work, not your restaurant."

The Star reports that a group of King Street business owners led by ORHMA chief executive Tony Elenis have asked Mayor John Tory and city councillor Joe Cressy to scrap the pilot project altogether, or to at least suspend the traffic rules on evenings and weekends.

Cressy made his thoughts clear on Twitter this morning.

"King Street was broken. We’re committed to fixing it. As a pilot there is the opportunity for tweaks & improvements, and we’re looking at those right now," he wrote. "But to be clear, we can’t go back to the failed status quo."

Cressy did, however, say in an interview that the city is taking immediate steps to help local businesses, such as discounted Green P parking lots and a new "public realm activation program" to lure pedestrians.

Lead photo by

Metrix X

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