King Street Pilot - Update
Earlier this year, our plan for a bold move on King Street was approved by City Council. Work on The King Street Transit Pilot has progressed rapidly since, and the project was launched on Sunday, November 12. So far, we're hearing it's working – streetcar trips are quicker, and transit is again taking priority on King. But, changes like this do take time to get used to, and there is always the potential with any big change that some wrinkles will need to be ironed out. This is the first project of its kind in Toronto and we're here to help address any issues that may arise.
The foundational pieces of the Pilot are in place: New turn restrictions are in effect along King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis to limit vehicular access to local traffic only. Cars are still able to reach every block of King Street in both directions, but commuter through-traffic is now limited. There is no public parking on King Street in the Pilot area. Instead, in the middle of each block, curbside space is dedicated to commercial deliveries, accessible pick up and drop off, general pick up and drop off, taxi stands, and expanded public realm.
Additional pieces of the Pilot are still being implemented and we are working on tweaks and improvements to respond to early feedback and observations.
Planters have been placed in front of David Pecaut Square to define the area for public realm and pedestrian enhancements. Additional planters will be delivered and placed around all the public realm areas by early December. You can find all the public realm areas along with other activity zones identified on this map of the King Street Pilot.
Public realm enhancement and activation
Once the new planters have been placed around the public realm areas, the City, local businesses, and BIAs will implement temporary winter enhancements and activations in these spaces. This may include public art, live music, and café seating. It will be tailored to the local character, needs, and opportunities.
The City will be launching a public campaign very soon to solicit ideas and proposals for high-quality, semi-permanent improvements to some of the public realm areas such as "parklets" like the one that was installed on Elm Street by the Downtown Yonge BIA last year. These improvements will be installed in the spring.
Local Business is King
One of the three top priorities for the King Street Pilot, along with moving more people on transit and improving the pedestrian realm, is to support business and economic prosperity. King Street is home to a large number of cafes and restaurants, major destinations for visitors, and places of work. The Pilot was designed in close collaboration with local businesses and attractions, and their BIAs, to facilitate business operations. There are now dedicated 24-hour zones right on King Street for commercial deliveries, passenger pick-up and drop-off, and taxi stands. Before the Pilot, these activities had to complete with on-street parking or were prohibited during rush hour.
The new public realm areas created on King Street will be available to adjacent restaurants and cafes that would like to use the space for outdoor patios. The cumulative effect of the public realm and pedestrian enhancements, including City-led special programming and events, should make King Street an even more popular designation for people to visit and spend money than it already is. We have a contract with Moneris, one of the main companies in Canada that processes debit and credit card payments for businesses, to provide accurate data on local commercial activity and trends.
The City is developing additional communications and materials to help promote local businesses and attractions while the Pilot is new and people are getting used to it, such as drivers who may not know that there are still thousands of public parking spaces available within a very short walk of King Street.
Maximizing streetcar capacity
Early indications are that streetcar speed and reliability have improved on King Street since the Pilot started. But as regular streetcar riders know well, we are still seeing capacity challenges with passengers being left behind by overcrowded streetcars at times.
The TTC has made some adjustments to increase the practical capacity of transit service on King Street. It helps a lot that streetcars are spaced out more evenly with the Pilot, so there are fewer instances of one full streetcar followed shortly behind by a nearly empty one. We are filling up those streetcars that were formerly underutilized, and moving more riders.
Since the Pilot started, the TTC has also been running some additional old streetcars on King Street above and beyond the regular scheduled service. It's normal practice to have some spare cars out to fill any gaps in service, but the TTC has been running these extra cars full time on the route due to high ridership.
Unfortunately, there is a City-wide shortage of streetcars and buses, so a major increase in service is dependent on the rate at which Bombardier delivers additional new streetcars. All of the next batch of new streetcars will be assigned to King Street.
Side street improvements
In the coming weeks, additional parking and traffic restrictions on some side streets around the Pilot will come into effect. (The by-law changes have been approved but are not enforced until updated signage is installed on the street.) These will address a number of traffic issues that already existing before the Pilot, including the challenge of illegal parking on Portland Street creating a bottleneck near King. All side streets and parallel routes are being monitored closely during the Pilot and we expect that there will be additional tweaks and improvements over the next year. Please let my office and the King Street Pilot team ([email protected]) know if you observe any issues.
The City will be installing additional signage for motorists at locations where we have been receiving feedback from the public that visibility could be improved.
Tactile walking surface indicators
Yellow strips covered in small domes called "tactile walking surface indicators" are being placed at each streetcar waiting area to alert people with low vision or no vision about where the active lane of traffic with moving vehicles begins. Installation will be completed as weather permits.
Taxi and rideshare support
The King Street Pilot staff team has been in regular communication with taxi industry and driver representatives to gather feedback on the operation of the Pilot. The City is currently preparing additional materials and other communications so that taxi drivers have the information they need to effectively navigate and serve customers on King Street during the Pilot.
The City is also taking steps to ensure that rideshare customers and providers like Uber have accurate information about the King Street Pilot. The City's recent information-sharing agreement with Waze will also push accurate information to more GPS navigation devices and apps, including the Pilot turn restrictions on King Street.
Active data collection
Throughout the King Street Pilot, the City is collecting data on dozens of metrics that measure the performance of the Pilot. This includes how well streetcar service is operating, how traffic is affected on parallel routes, and economic impact data for local business. A full list of the different kinds of data being collected is available in this TTC report. You can view some baseline traffic and transit data for November 2017 here. The project website at www.toronto.ca/kingstreetpilot will be updated with the latest results at regular intervals during the Pilot, with the first update expected in mid-December.
Observations and comments from people who live and work around King Street are also vitally important to understanding how the Pilot is working and what kinds of additional improvements are needed. Please email your feedback to me at [email protected] and the project team at [email protected].