The busiest surface transit route in the city, King Street is known for crowded, sluggish streetcars that get snarled in heavy traffic, causing daily frustration for roughly 65,000 weekday riders.
But the city wants to change that.
At a public meeting on Thursday night, community members have the chance to offer input on the King Street pilot project, slotted for the stretch of King Street between Bathurst Street and Jarvis Street..
The final concept? A separate corridor for streetcars and no through car traffic, unveiled by the city's chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat on CBC's Metro Morning.
No through traffic, separate streetcar corridor
"The plan we're bringing forward this evening really is primarily about turning King, in the pilot area, into a series of local streets — meaning it won't be a through route," she said. "You won't be able to travel from Jarvis in a car, right through to Bathurst."
Drivers will still be able to access businesses and parking garages, she added, but they'll also be forced to make a right-hand turn at certain points.
"We've been modeling this, and one of the reasons we chose the pilot area boundaries where we did ... is because that's an area of the city where there is an alternative network," Keesmaat said, noting drivers can use nearby streets including Adelaide, Richmond and Queen.
As for transit, the 504 King streetcar will have its own designated corridor. "The goal, really, is to get those cars out of the way so we can increase the reliability of the streetcar," Keesmaat explained.
The city says cars are currently given priority, even though transit moves three times more people than the 20,000 private vehicles taking the street every weekday.
And right now, during certain times of the day, it's faster to walk than to ride the streetcar. Keesmaat hopes that changes to a faster speed and shorter wait times.
So will there be more congestion on other streets, thanks to the pilot project?
"We know traffic flow will change ... and that is a difficult thing to model," Keesmaat said.
But, she said, the goal is to shift more people onto transit — while ensuring traffic doesn't grind to a halt.
"We want the pilot to be a success," she said.
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