King Street Transit Pilot Updates - January
The King Street Transit Pilot is about moving people better on King Street, and making the street work for everyone. Working together, we're able to make improvements as we go to continue to build a street that works for all.
Our bold move to improve King Street, the year-long King Street Transit Pilot, is ten weeks old. The second round of data, collected during the month of December, is now available. We are continuing to see that streetcars are more reliable, travel time is down, and vehicular impacts have been minimal. We've received transit ridership counts from the TTC, and we now know that there are 25% more riders on the King Streetcar not than before the pilot - an astonishingly fast increase. Next month, we'll begin receiving data on pedestrian counts, vehicle volumes, and economic impact point-of-sale data. Click here for full details on all the data that has been released so far. Updated data and additional metrics will be published every month during the Pilot.
Transit Ridership up 25% on King
Confirming what we have been hearing from streetcar riders, counts conducted by the TTC showed more people were riding the streetcars almost immediately after the Pilot started. In late November, peak rush hour ridership was up 25%, measured eastbound at Spadina Avenue in the morning. This is a positive but very surprisingly rapid change. The fact that so many more people are choosing to ride the streetcar on King Street is the clearest indicator demonstrating that the King Street Pilot is a major and meaningful improvement for riders.
As a consequence of the how quickly and dramatically the number of riders went up, the TTC is providing about 25% more capacity on King Street than at the beginning of the pilot, adding more streetcars as quickly as they are able. As the ridership count is a number of weeks old now, we all anticipate that even more streetcar service is needed in order to keep up with growing demand. The TTC is also taking the unprecedented step of re-allocating all streetcars from the Dundas and Carlton routes to run on King Street and carry the increasing number of riders. Those other routes will temporarily be served by buses.
I'm also strongly advocating to bring "two-hour transfers" to King Street as soon as possible, in advance of the city-wide launch later this year. This means that each time you pay your TTC fare, you would be able to hop on and off the streetcar as much as you like within two hours. By getting it on King Street now, transit riders could hop off the streetcar, grab a coffee or run an errand, and hop back on to continue to their final destination. The larger number of riders on King Street will have an easier time patronizing local businesses on King Street.
King Street is Open for Business
As I mentioned above, while transit is prioritized on King Street, it's important that the pilot project work for everyone. Over the last few weeks, I have heard concerns from some local business about the impact that the pilot is having on them, and we're working together to make changes and improvements to address them. We've launched Everyone is King, the public realm design competition to animate the new public spaces on King Street, and Eats on King, a promotion similar to Winterlicious that will launch on King in February. We've augmented the parking discount promotion - originally announced as a $5 discount in December - to 2 hours of free parking in the pilot area, on an unlimited basis. We've commissioned electronic signage to improve communication, and are continuing to review more improvements. The City is also collecting economic point of sale data, from a number of sources (Moneris, Mastercard, etc.) as part of the pilot, to ensure we are measuring the economic impact of the project on local business.
However, let me be clear as there has been some unfortunate and harmful misinformation in the news - King Street is open for business, every single block of King Street continues to be accessible to private vehicles and taxis, and visitors should not be afraid to come to King Street for dinner in the evening. It is deeply disappointing that some individuals are using every opportunity in front of a TV camera to make claims to the contrary, because it hurts our local businesses when visitors are made to believe that King Street is not an accessible destination.
I am working very closely with local business, Mayor Tory, and City staff to overcome this challenge of communication and perception in the wider City. This past Friday, the mayor and I met again with a number of local business leaders to discuss the matter and our next steps together. We identified ways that the City can help, including a dedicated Toronto-wide advertising campaign, and you should see more roll out in the coming days and weeks.
The City is also giving careful consideration to the proposals from some local businesses to modify the hours and exemptions in effect during the King Street Pilot. Our door is open to all proposals and changes of this nature have not been ruled out. But we must take care to ensure that we do not jeopardize the critical improvements that have already been achieved for public transit on King Street, and rather we must build on what is working to make the King Street Pilot an inclusive success.
As an incentive to visit King Street businesses, the City of Toronto is offering daily discount codes for use at Green P parking stalls and parking lots in the area. You can save up to $10 each day (about two hours of parking).
Please visit the project web page here for the daily code and a link to download the Green P app.
Public Realm Transformation: Everyone is King
The City has launched the "Everyone is King" competition to solicit proposals for attractive curb lane public spaces on King Street for all to enjoy. Starting in the spring, you will see three kinds of public spaces along King Street in the Pilot area:
- Local businesses will have the first opportunity to use any adjacent public realm spaces. There has been lots of interest in creating expanded patios for people to dine outdoors, similar to what you would have seen during the Toronto International Film Festival in recent years.
- The City will be funding the design and construction of two high-quality, showcase parklets.
- In the remainder of the spaces, there will be dozens of creative, smaller-scale installations that may include tables and seating, games and other interactive features, and public art.
A "pilot project" involves relatively simple and low-cost changes that are intended to test out an idea. This means we have the flexibility and nimbleness to measure how it is working, week by week, and respond with refinements and other efforts to address any issues that might arise. A pilot project is not expected to be perfect when it is first implemented, and we built right into our plans that adjustments would be made along the way to optimize the pilot and make sure it is working for everyone. Many tweaks and improvements have already been implemented, and more are on the way. For more, please see my recent column in the Toronto Star.
Your feedback and comments to my office at [email protected] and to the project team at [email protected] is important, along with the data we are collecting, for ensuring that we can make the King Street Pilot work for everyone. I appreciate hearing about your experience.