King Street West as it stands today, just isn’t working well. It’s not working for transit or cars users, pedestrians or cyclists and the city is ready to rectify that.
In the first public meeting for the King Street Pilot Study, held at Metro Hall Monday night, by the City of Toronto, and the Toronto Transit Commission, more than 100 people came out to hear the “big move” the city is willing to take when it comes to improving King Street.
“It’s time to re-imagine King to focus on moving people, not just moving cars,” said Councillor for Ward 20 (Trinity-Spadina) Joe Cressy.
“Everybody knows the problem. No matter how you use King it’s insufficient and it’s not working…If we’re going to do this we’re not going to spend years doing this. We’re going to do this quickly.”
With plans to implement the pilot as early as the fall, the focus remains on putting transit first to help move people across the busy corridor that carries more than 65,000 riders a day. While only accounting for 16 per cent of those riders, cars are accorded 65 per cent of the space on the road.
“It’s the heaviest surface transit use in our system. There are also, right now, some people who can walk faster than they can take transit,” said Barbara Gray, the General Manager for Transportation Services.
“The King car is really critical to people’s trips (into the core). I think King Street is a fantastic corridor in the city and it can get better. I think that if we focus on transit and figure out how we can make that trip more reliable and manage the public realm it can be even better.”
The scope of the pilot also stretches to include an economic impact analysis of the small businesses in the area that will be affected by the pilot and a partnership with affected Business Improvement Areas.
The public was asked to offer feedback in three areas, which include choosing which of the three preferred options would be the best treatment for the stretch of King from Dufferin Street in the west end to River Street in the east end.
The options are
• separated lanes that only allow right turns, with one lane in each direction for cars (streetcar would have its own lane);
• alternating loops allows one lane of one-way traffic to access driveways with alternating directions on each block. No left turns and designated streetcar lanes and an expanded sidewalk would increase the public realm.
• and the transit promenade expands the sidewalk to the road on both sides of the street to increase the public realm, right turns only permitted in both directions that force cars off the street at the end of each block, and cars share lanes with streetcars until the end of the block.
The other two areas needing feedback were deciding which area of King Street to pilot first and how will the success of the pilot be measured. The pilot study is segmented in six parts, from Roncesvalles-Bathurst, Bathurst to Spadina, Spadina to University, University to Yonge, Yonge to Jarvis and Jarvis to the Don River.
The city, which conducted some preliminary data collection before the meeting discovered the section of Bathurst to Jarvis to be the worst for transit use and is looking to start there unless the public sees an area that needs it more.
“King Street is a street that carries an enormous amount of traffic on a streetcar that isn’t working particularly well. And when you look at Bathurst to Jarvis isn’t working well at all,” said senior city planner Dan Nicolson.
“When you’re dealing with constrained environments like downtown Toronto, where resources and space are very scarce you really have to use the space you have to the greatest possible advantage.”