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Give the King St. Pilot time to work before bombarding staff

At Monday’s Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) board meeting, many city councillors were trying to press staff for information about the King St. Pilot Study. They wanted to know when results would be coming in, when police could issue fines, and when the city should consider technological improvements to the design of the street.

At this moment, the pilot had only been running for one and a half days.

As of Sunday, Nov. 12, King St. was mostly shut down to drivers between Jarvis and Bathurst. Drivers can access that corridor, but must turn right at the following intersection. Barriers prevent cars from passing through. This is a big change, and many people who use the King St. corridor to get to work will have to either take transit or adjust their route.

Of course, there will be a time of transition. There will be people still confused about how it works, and those who have been living under a rock and have no clue what is going on. There is something for everyone to learn — drivers, cyclists, and transit users alike. Even the most informed citizen may forget during their autopilot commute to work.

All of this is to say that one and a half days is not enough to be able to make any sort of judgement on the pilot study. Those councillors asking how much faster the streetcar ran or whether or not to insert red-light cameras to catch cars going through intersections should understand the answers aren’t available yet.

Let’s give this pilot its due time — a few months later, lets revisit enforcement and efficiency. Both of these factors are incredibly important, and as TTC CEO Andy Byford said, when conducting a pilot, you want to do everything you can to ensure it is successful.

Unlocking gridlock in Toronto has never been more important. Over 60,000 people ride the King St. streetcar every day. Most of these people are met with overcrowded streetcars and car-to-care traffic. What should be a simple 15 minute ride turns out to be closer to 30 minutes.

Something needed to be done. Drivers may complain for a few weeks, as will pedestrians trying to cross intersections that didn’t have lights beforehand, but at the end of the day, this transformative pilot should have an incredibly positive impact on downtown Toronto.

But, only time will tell.

King St. Pilot Study approved by city council

Thursday evening, Toronto city council approved the one-year King St. Pilot Study, with an amendment to allow an exemption for taxis during the hours of 10 p.m. and 5  a.m.

There was quite a bit of debate from councillors surrounding this exemption, as well as the $1.5 million price tag of the project. But, after four hours of debate, the plan was approved 35 to 4.

The pilot will cover six kilometres of King St., from Jarvis to Bathurst. The corridor would funnel drivers to parallel east-west routes like Queen St., Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, or Front, while still allowing local drivers to access the street for short periods of time.

The plan allows local residents to drive on King St., but only between intersections. These vehicles must turn right at the next traffic signal. Physical barriers will be used to prevent vehicles other than the streetcars from passing through the intersection.

There is also going to be designated spaces for short-term loading, deliveries, and taxis, something business owners indicated was a necessity.

courtesy of the city of toronto

Now, with this added amendment, taxis will be able to pass through intersections during the designated time slots. This exemption only applies to licensed cabs and not ride-sharing services like Uber.

City staff argued against the exemption, saying it has the potential to confuse drivers and that traffic is still heavy on King St. in the early hours of the morning. In fact, they said it could undermine the transit-first mentality of the study.

Regardless of the warnings, council choose to adopt the exemption anyway (although they limited the hours to the evening/early morning) to help relieve the nightlife crowding along the corridor.

The pilot will be implemented in the fall.