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From the Star:

Get cars off King, TTC asks City Hall
Experiment would virtually ban autos on four blocks downtown next summer
Mar 22, 2007 04:30 AM
Tess Kalinowski
transportation Reporter

In an attempt to unclog streetcar traffic on Toronto's busiest route, the Toronto Transit Commission is asking the city to experiment with making a downtown segment of King St. virtually a transit-only zone.

The proposal, similar to one floated in 2001, calls for the creation of a reserved right-of-way for streetcars in a four- to five-block "demonstration" section of King West. Exactly where is still to be determined, but it would likely be somewhere between Bay St. and Spadina Ave., for a couple of months in the summer of 2008.

If council approves the project, a single lane would remain open to taxis, cars and deliveries, alternating directions on each block. But the plan is designed to make the designated stretch a no-go zone to motorists.

"It's a pilot project, but there's a sense transit has to be given priority in the city," said TTC chair Adam Giambrone.

The King car is the busiest in the city, carrying 48,000 riders on a typical weekday. Heavy traffic, however, regularly forces streetcars to bunch up, creating gaps in service. Many become so crowded they must bypass stops, leaving frustrated passengers on the street.

Giambrone said the move to create a transit zone is a logical step in light of last Friday's launch of a plan to build seven light-rail corridors crisscrossing Toronto, which the TTC hopes will draw federal and provincial funding.

The 2001 proposal drew strong objections from some businesses on King.

Restaurants along the theatre stretch near John St. rely on walk-in business for much of their sales. Closing the street to traffic could result in a drop in sales between 10 and 20 percent, Grant Warfield, owner of Gabby's Grill and Bar, said yesterday.

"I think the city of Toronto has done everything they humanly can to deter business in the area already," said Warfield, who has been in the restaurant industry for 20 years. He said a ban would effectively limit his clientele to local customers.

"The businesses will either survive, or they won't... it's disappointing, but it's not unexpected," Warfield added.

Such objections have derailed similar projects in the past. But the King St. experiment might appeal to councillors' growing concerns about traffic congestion and the need to make public transit a more attractive option.

"With any service as frequent as every two minutes, there is no way to effectively manage and ensure reliability on a route operating in mixed traffic, an environment over which the TTC has no control," says the report approved by the transit commission yesterday.

Because the plan calls for temporarily widening sidewalks – giving more space to pedestrians and sidewalk cafes during the slower-traffic summer months – "you might find the Bay Street trades actually like this environment," Giambrone said.

Last night, the TTC also decided to ask the city to:

# Expand the designated no-parking and no-standing period by an hour, to 7-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.

# Designate King a "transit priority zone" between Dufferin and Parliament Sts., doubling fines for traffic and parking violations.

# Work with the province to expand the use of red-light cameras to discourage illegal left turns, and stopping and parking violations.

# Consider building taxi lay-bys so cabs no longer block curb lanes around Bay St. office towers.

The summer pilot would probably cost "a couple of hundred thousand dollars," Giambrone said, including temporary barriers, possibly planters, rubber curbs or wooden walkways.

In some ways, the King plan is similar to last summer's experiment on Queens Quay, where two car lanes were replaced by widened pedestrian walkways.

Past steps to make King more streetcar-friendly have had limited success, says the TTC report. Left-turn bans at most intersections have reduced delays, but many drivers still ignore them, it says.

The TTC has already assigned 30 per cent more than the standard number of streetcars on that route to help balance loads and alleviate bunching. But more of the new articulated cars won't be available until the end of the decade.

A ban on drivers using designated streetcar lanes during rush hours has been ineffective because there is no physical barrier to prevent it, said the report.

And the Post:

TTC advocates king streetcar right-of-way
City council OK needed: Two-month experiment during summer of 2008
James Cowan, National Post
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2007

The TTC yesterday backed installation of a streetcar right-of-way on King Street, a two-month experiment aimed at streamlining Toronto's busiest route.

If approved by city council, the plan will close four or five blocks at the centre of the financial district during the summer of 2008. It will still be possible to make deliveries to King Street businesses using side streets, but no through traffic will be permitted while the pilot project is taking place.

TTC chairman Adam Giambrone yesterday disputed suggestions the street closure would cause additional gridlock in the downtown core.

"I don't think it is going to be a disaster," Mr. Giambrone said. "In all the cases where we've done these types of things, disaster has not occurred."

The city successfully closed several lanes of traffic on Queen's Quay Boulevard last summer to create a pedestrian walkway. Mr. Giambrone argued King Street could also be blocked without an adverse effect on the surrounding community, saying a pilot project will demonstrate the merits of the TTC's plan.

"This is about showing people that this can work and the world won't end," he told reporters.

The TTC contends radical measures are required to improve King Street's streetcar service. While there are enough cars along the route to provide service every two minutes, disruptions caused by traffic accidents, illegally parked cars or delivery vans mean it takes longer for streetcars to arrive.

A 2001 study conducted by the TTC suggests the majority of people who travel along King Street use public transit. At the intersection of Spadina Avenue and King Street during the morning rush hour, 2,660 people were observed riding the streetcar, compared with 1,040 driving cars.

In total, 48,000 customers ride along the King Street route each day.

According to TTC staff, the construction of a right-of-way is the best way to improve service along the route. A staff report tabled yesterday notes previous initiatives, such as traffic enforcement blitzes or closing lanes to traffic without construction of a physical barrier, have not worked.

Indeed, staff note that there are currently designated streetcar- only lanes on King Street between Dufferin and John streets as well as between Jarvis and Parliament streets, but the lanes are "totally ineffective" because the rules governing them are never enforced or obeyed.

In addition to creating a right-of-way, the TTC also will ask the city to install automated cameras to catch motorists who make illegal left-turns on King Street and increase fines for other traffic and parking violations. The TTC will also explore allowing passengers to board streetcars along the route by the back doors, similar to what is already allowed on Queen Street.

City Councillor Peter Milczyn was the sole transit commissioner to oppose the right-of-way proposal yesterday.

"I don't think this proposal is going to work as well as we hope and it's going to generate a lot of controversy," he said.

Mr. Milczyn said it would make more sense to close Queen Street, which is home to a large shopping district, to traffic and leave King Street for cars.

As transit commissioners wrestled yesterday with ways to improve existing service, they also unanimously endorsed an ambitious plan to build a light rail network across the city over the next 15 years.

The TTC's new light rail plan calls for 120 kilometres of new track, including lines along Don Mills Road, Eglinton Avenue and Jane Street. The $6-billion network could be the "most important piece of city building" in a generation, according to Councillor Joe Mihevc.

Commissioners also voted in favour of providing $5,000 honorariums to community groups to beautify the exteriors of eight downtown subway stations. Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker said a similar project should be implemented in suburban communities.

"I hope they'll come back to make our stations as beautiful as the ones downtown," he said. "What I want us to do is find beauty in Scarborough."

I think I prefer this approach to change. The experiment will cost a few million (mostly directing traffic and off-duty cops to enforce) but it's well worth it to buy mind-share from the public and catch major issues before undergoing permanent construction.
Great idea! Adelaide and Richmond are great streets for getting across the city. The only problem currently is that Adelaide has a lane blocked off from the B/A project. If they could remove all those cabs that sit there at all hours of the day it should do wonders to move traffic along.

They should also remove some stops along king st as well. Take away the stop at Blue Jay's way since it is so close to Spadina. They should move the Spadina stop back to Charlotte since most of the time you get delayed waiting for the streetcar to pull up to Spadina because a streetcar is turning north on Spadina.
King has waaay too many stops. Simcoe, York, Victoria (which is particularly pointless as there's no lights here) have to be pulled out, especially as these are so close to the stops next to the subway. Peter/BJW - maybe. I'm open to your idea of moving the King stop back to Charlotte as yes that is a bottleneck with all the turning Spadina cars, and if that is done, then it makes even more sense to pull the Peter stop.

This has come up before, but these are the stops I would pull for the streetcars:

- Victoria at Dundas, Queen, King
- York at King and Queen
- Simcoe at Queen, King
- Chestnut and Dundas
- Huron at Dundas and College

Out on the bus routes, I would remove about 20% of the stops network wide, sometimes merging two stops to one between. I would not go as far as others suggest and pull 30-40% of bus and tram stops.
The only problem currently is that Adelaide has a lane blocked off from the B/A project.

Add another lost lane if Trump gets started.
You're right about that, spmarshall.

As a former daily rider and still very frequent rider of the King car, I can say that most of the problems come from a lack of frequency. In the morning rush hour, there's literally a car always in sight. Service is quick, and the cars never get overcrowded or forced to wait too long to load. People don't mind waiting for the next streetcar when they already see it. The problem is that, inexplicably, the frequency is almost twice as bad during the evening rush hour. The congestion is always terrible, and the waits at stops can be very long. Outside rush hour, the King frequency is pretty terrible. I've timed fifteen minute waits, usually because a car has been short turned or bunched up.

I've thought for ages that the solution the TTC came up with for King seems unnecessarily complex. People don't much care for the idea of the street alternating one-way directions every block. I'm sure the idea would be much more successful if they made Queen and King into a one way pair, potentially the whole length of King from the one end where they join to the other. Two lanes would be reserved for the streetcars, while the other two would be one-way traffic lanes. Parking prohibitions could be retained during rush hour, and outside rush hour the curb lane could be conveniently used for loading and unloading. It would definitely be much more saleable to drivers, since most love one-way streets.
Whenever I drove downtown I found that it was the streetcars, not the cars that blocked traffic and caused congestion. I say give the street cars a right-of-way, or move the street cars to the far right lane so that they don't block traffic when they stop to pick-up passengers.

How about a compromise. Remove the streetcars from Queen entirely during rush hour so that the cars can move, while banning all cars from King and moving all east-west streetcars to King.
Far more baffling than streetcar stops at King and York ( large office towers ) or King and Simcoe ( Roy Thomson Hall, a condo, and soon more towers to the south ) are the very closely-spaced bus stops in much quieter parts of town: those at Pape and Riverdale and Riverdale and Carlaw for instance with hardly any distance between them.
How about a compromise. Remove the streetcars from Queen entirely during rush hour so that the cars can move, while banning all cars from King and moving all east-west streetcars to King.

Why not just support the Front Street extension?
The Front Street extension wouldn't do much past Bathurst because the neighbourhood blocked the connection to Dufferin.
I know. I wasn't being serious.

Just like I don't take getting rid of streetcars on Queen seriously.
off-duty cops to enforce

I drive on streetcar routes and the problem is illegal stopping and blocking of lanes. Just last month a delivery truck parked on Queen East during the morning rush hour not only blocked a lane but the streetcar could not squeeze through. This caused a log jam of streetcars and vehicles. We must have waited 15-20 minutes before the streetcar operator went looking for the culprit. Once he realized what he done, the delivery truck driver jumped into truck and took off. There was no cop or parking enforcement leech around. They must be too busy handing out tickets to "Ez-Rock demographic" soccer moms(and dads) in mini-vans parked illegally in front of schools and daycare centres dropping off their kids. Reassign some of them to patrol King and Queen much more frequently and get those lane blockers out of there. The city can save a few million dollars and stop this asinine idea.
What the area really needs is an east-west subway line, or at least underground LRT like the one proposed on Eglinton. But that makes sense, so it won't happen.
From the Post:

TTC's streetcar PrOposal for King 'madness'
Theatre District; Residents lambaste plan to put right-of-way on congested street
Adir Glick, National Post
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Toronto Transit Commission's plan for a streetcar right-of-way on King Street was lambasted by local residents and business owners at a public meeting last night.

TTC chairman and councillor Adam Giambrone explained the March 22 proposal at the behest of Adam Vaughan, city councillor for Trinity-Spadina, the district affected by the proposal.

Mr. Vaughan said the transit commission never consulted him or any businesses or residents before passing the plan at a TTC meeting. He found out about the proposal by reading the newspaper.

"I have yet to decide if this is a good or bad proposal. But it has many challenges ahead of it, especially for restaurants, especially for residents," Mr. Vaughan said. "The TTC needs to slow down and listen to the community."

And the community -- at least judging by the attendees at last night's meeting-- was not pleased.

One attendee at the meeting said: "This is a very difficult place to undertake this. I am surprised that they chose this street to attempt it. This is madness."

He said the plan could ultimately close down the theatres in the entertainment district -- one of Toronto's most popular tourist destinations -- because patrons will be unable to reach the theatre by car.

A lawyer representing the Holiday Inn on King and Peter streets, asked Mr. Giambrone how a tourist unfamiliar with the city could reach the area and park.

The King Street line is one of the TTC's busiest, with over 48,000 passengers riding it on a weekday. At the meeting Mr. Giambrone said: "Not a single city in the world operates that many streetcars in mixed traffic."

He said the King Street streetcars carry more passengers than the Sheppard subway.

Fabien Siebert, owner of French restaurant Marcel, blames the bad traffic on King Street on a bottleneck of streetcars at Charlotte Street and King, where streetcars turning up Spadina Street get stuck behind streetcars going west on King.

© National Post 2007

A lawyer representing the Holiday Inn on King and Peter streets, asked Mr. Giambrone how a tourist unfamiliar with the city could reach the area and park.

Toronto has one of the most navigatable and least intimidating street networks around. Try Boston.