Toronto councillors vote to make streetcar pilot project permanent

Toronto city council has overwhelmingly opted to turn a pilot project designed to improve transit on a busy downtown streetcar route into a permanent venture.

Planters, patios and artwork occupy the curb lanes as automobile traffic is restricted to improve streetcar service during the King Street Pilot Project (photo: Wikimedia Commons author: TheTrolleyPole)

Councillors voted 22-3 on April 16, 2019 in favour of making the King Street Pilot Project the new reality on the city’s busiest surface transit route, citing the success of the 18-month-long experiment.

In November 2017, the city opted to largely ban private vehicles from travelling straight through the stretch of King Street cutting through the city’s financial and entertainment districts.

The project initially met with backlash from local businesses, prompting Mayor John Tory to announce a series of initiatives meant to encourage visitors to the area.

A report from city staff presented before the council vote says the King Street Pilot shaved between four and five minutes off streetcar travel time during peak hours while also boosting ridership on the route by nearly 17 per cent.

The report also found that travel time for vehicles travelling in and around the pilot project were largely the same give or take a minute.

“King Street is the busiest surface transit route in North America,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement issued after the council vote.

“By proceeding with this giant step forward and investing in King Street’s future, we are doing the right thing for our residents . . . the right thing for King Street, and the right thing for our city.”

Under the rules established during the pilot project, motorists were largely only permitted to drive one block before having to turn right.

Street parking was banned in the pilot area, which extended from Jarvis Street west to Bathurst Street. Taxis are allowed to travel through the intersections only between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m, a rule the city report said should be studied further in the future.

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