King Street Success – Lessons for Vancouver and Surrey!

Kicking and screaming all the way, Toronto is now updating its heritage streetcar system to light rail standards and the the result is obvious, success.

Modern trams, reserved rights-of-ways, all the key ingredients for successful LRT.

Sadly, this puts Toronto 40 years behind most other European Cities.

As found in Europe, modern light-rail has changed the dynamics of public transports and except for a few bumps along the road, the successful King Street experiment may even change the way the TTC thinks, when planning for subways, except…………

…………for the real transit Luddites like Premier Ford, who wants to squander billions of dollars on subways or elevated transit so surface streets remain for cars only.

So 20th century way of thinking!

Toronto’s King streetcar pilot project is now permanent

By David RiderCity Hall Bureau Chief
Tues., April 16, 2019

Streetcars are officially king on King St. W., and their reign could expand to other streets.

City council voted 22-3 Tuesday to make permanent the King St. pilot project, giving streetcars priority over other vehicles between Bathurst and Jarvis Sts.

After the success of the King streetcar pilot project, Toronto's transportation general manager says city staff are looking at other ways of

After the success of the King streetcar pilot project, Toronto’s transportation general manager says city staff are looking at other ways of “moving people out of cars and onto public transit.”  (RANDY RISLING / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

After resounding success that saw, for a relatively modest investment, weekday rush-hour streetcar boardings skyrocket from 72,000 to 84,000, and overall people movement into downtown increase while vehicle traffic decreased, city staff are looking at other routes.

Barbara Gray, transportation general manager, said staff are not necessarily looking at restricting vehicles on the other transit routes, noting traffic signal improvement and relocated stops has helped make the King pilot a model that has other cities around the world looking to emulate it.

“When we start to look at … environmental goals and climate-change goals, getting people onto transit, walking and biking is a critical need and goal of the city and projects like King St. help to get us there,” Gray told council.

“We are looking at moving people out of cars and onto public transit.”

The city installed the pilot in November 2017 at a projected cost at the time of $1.5 million split between the city and the federal government.

It restricts car movements on the 2.6-kilometre stretch of King by compelling drivers to turn right at most major intersections.

The project wasn’t a hit with everyone. Some King St. merchants said the pilot project hurt their businesses and even forced some to close. City staff acknowledged tracking growth in customer spending slowed to 1.7 per cent during the project, from 2.5 per cent the year before.

Mike Williams, in charge of economic development, said his department will continue working with businesses to boost foot traffic in the corridor and their receipts. Now that the pilot is permanent, city staff plan street improvements including elevated patios and comfortable seating in freed-up space.

Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York), who represents the corridor that includes the theatre district and restaurant row, urged his colleagues to officially acknowledge transit needs to be a priority over cars in the corridor.

“It’s a pilot for a reason, it’s not designed to be perfect, that’s what happens when you make it permanent and that’s the opportunity here,” he said.

Councillor Stephen Holyday (Ward 2 Etobicoke Centre) tried unsuccessfully to convince council to halt restrictions on private vehicles after 7 p.m. and overnight, and to give electric vehicles all-day access.

Holyday said allowing cars free access at night would help businesses, and that some of his Etobicoke constituents have told him the risk of getting a ticket on King is keeping them from going downtown.

Mayor John Tory acknowledged the challenges the pilot has proposed to some but said the overall increase in transit use can’t be ignored. He successfully asked council to have staff continue monitoring King St. transit performance.

Councillor Holyday, Michael Ford and Jim Karygiannis voted against making the pilot permanent.

With files from Ben Spurr

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics.

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