June 19, 2017
Pending council approval this summer, the stretch of King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis will be reduced to one lane (for the most part) starting later this year. A report before the mayor’s Executive Committee was passed on Monday, recommending radical transformations to the curbside lane that will transfer use of road area from cars to transit users waiting to board. The proposed design also includes spaces for restaurants to extend their patios, and designated areas for cars on delivery, or taxis picking up and dropping off passengers.
The report describes the 2.5 kilometre stretch of King Street as “not currently working well for transit,” saying that “People end up having to plan for their slowest trip.” The plan aims to change that.
The biggest changes would involve moving streetcar stops further along the route to the other side of the intersection from where they are currently placed. Physical barriers are planned for either end of where pedestrians board, with a mural on the road in between.
Restrictions to left-hand turns are being proposed, in addition to those already in place for rush hour. The proposal also recommends that eight intersections prohibit through traffic going east or west, forcing vehicles to make a right-hand turn. Representatives from the taxi industry were at committee on Monday to talk about their concerns on this point, saying they were not included in the city’s consultation process. Kristine Hubbard, operations manager at Beck Taxi, was asked by city councillors why she didn’t attend the public meetings, questioning her memory of communication from staff. “I remember perfectly, actually. I remember that I was not invited,” Hubbard said.
Mayor John Tory passed a motion asking city staff to consider an exemption for taxis before council meets in July.
The plan for King Street comes amid a battle at city hall often described as the “war on the car,” lately fought over the Bloor bike lane pilot. The proposed restructuring on King does not account for any bicycle lanes nor does it explain where cyclists would gather at intersections. The report does state cyclists will have space to ride in the curb lane.
The advocacy organization Cycle Toronto did attend the meeting to speak about the issue, and could not be reached for comment on Monday, but sent a letter in advance saying the organization is “cautiously optimistic that the King Street Pilot will be a small step forward for cycling and a big leap forward for transit in Toronto.”
Bylaws restricting who can drive in what lane on King Street have been in place since 2011, however information on to what extent they are actually followed (or enforced) were not discussed in any detail at the committee meeting.