King Street pilot project changes how everyone uses the street

If you're commuting via King Street on Sunday, your trip will likely be far different. Here's a guide on how to get around, no matter how you use the street.

City, TTC aiming to prioritize streetcar service that moves 65,000 people daily

The TTC's King Street pilot project will dramatically change the face of the busy street in the downtown core, between Bathurst Street in the west and Jarvis Street in the east. (John Rieti/CBC)

If you're commuting via King Street on Sunday, your trip will likely be far different.

The city's King Street pilot project, aimed at prioritizing streetcar service on the TTC's busiest surface route, has launched and will face its first tests this week.

Here's a guide on how to get around, no matter how you use the street.

The streetcar is King

No promises you'll be able to get a seat, but the TTC is hoping the pilot project will speed up transit times for its customers. (John Rieti/CBC)

Well, at least between Bathurst and Jarvis streets.

The TTC says upwards of 65,000 people take King streetcars every weekday, but until now, their trips have been slowed down by congestion. 

"You can be sitting in traffic for almost an hour," said Coun. Mike Layton, whose ward includes thousands of Liberty Village residents who rely on the route.

"We have to do something about that."

Drivers have the most changes to get used to with the King Street pilot project as the streetcar is king to fight congestion and help move 65,000 people quicker along the TTC's busiest surface route. 2:05

To accomplish this, the streetcar will be given priority in the city's core, while motorists will be limited to using King one block at a time. 

If you take transit, everything will stay the same except for where you get on and off the streetcar. The stops have moved to the far side of the intersection, and eventually you'll get a protected waiting area. 

Motorists beware

Drivers will no longer be able to go straight through intersections on King Street between Jarvis Street and Bathurst Street. (John Rieti/CBC)

Drivers have the most changes to get used to, although the key takeaway is that you'll no longer be able to drive straight across King Street. Here are the other key restrictions:

  • Heading east at Bathurst, or west at Jarvis, you'll have to turn right or left.
  • Left turns will be banned within the pilot zones.
  • To get on to King you'll turn right, and you'll have to turn right again one block later to get off. 

The city has more information on its site including details about delivery services, and officials are vowing to monitor how this change affects nearby streets like Richmond and Adelaide, Wellington and Front.

"Part of the reason this is a pilot is to not just see what the impact on King will be, but what will be the impact on adjacent streets," said TTC Chair Josh Colle, adding he hopes improving streetcar reliability will actually get more people out of their cars.

Taxis and Uber

The TTC and the city will be monitoring the pilot using a number of criteria, from streetcar speed to how the project affects spending at businesses along the street. (John Rieti/CBC)

The taxi industry may not like the changes, but the pilot does give cabbies an advantage over their Uber-driving rivals.

There will be designated cab stands as part of the street design, and cabs will also be exempt from the no-through traffic rule from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., in part to service King's bustling nightlife. 

Uber drivers will have to follow the same rules as every other motorist, and the city is encouraging those who use ride-sharing platforms to arrange pick-ups on other streets.

Pedestrians and cyclists

King Street won't offer cyclists too many new features, but the city's busiest bike lanes are nearby. (John Rieti/CBC)

The city has plans to gussy up King Street's sidewalks eventually, but for now the main thing pedestrians need to be aware of is new right-turn signals at intersections.

Cyclists won't get a dedicated lane as part of the plans, however there will be painted "bike boxes" at King's intersection with Peter and Simcoe streets, so you can connect with the lanes running north and south.

Of course, the city's busiest bike lanes, Richmond and Adelaide, are just to the north of King.

About the Author

John Rieti

John Rieti covers city hall and city issues for CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country in search of great stories. Outside of work, catch him running or cycling around, often armed with a camera, always in search of excellent coffee.

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