Com­plex project aims to tackle tran­sit woes along key route in Toronto

The News (New Glasgow) - - CANADA -

A com­plex new project aimed at tack­ling tran­sit woes along a bustling street in Canada’s most pop­u­lous city got its first real test with com­muters Mon­day, draw­ing mixed re­ac­tions from mo­torists and tran­sit users.

The King Street pi­lot project in Toronto has banned cars from trav­el­ling straight through a busy stretch of the down­town road cut­ting through the city’s fi­nan­cial and en­ter­tain­ment dis­tricts, with only a few ex­cep­tions.

The project – which launched Sun­day and will run for a year – aims to give pri­or­ity to street­cars along what is the busiest sur­face tran­sit route in the city. The thor­ough­fare, where street­cars travel in the cen­tre lanes, has been plagued by slow travel speeds and over­crowd­ing.

Dur­ing Mon­day’s morn­ing rush hour, tran­sit users and driv­ers ex­pressed vary­ing opin­ions on the new rules in ef­fect.

For one reg­u­lar com­muter, the project seemed an ini­tial suc­cess.

“I think it’s great, I really do,” said Eve Lyons, who either walks a two-kilo­me­tre stretch along King Street or takes the street­car to work ev­ery week­day. “This will take me about eight min­utes now, rather than 20, 25 min­utes.”

Lau­ren Ir­win, an­other com­muter who takes the street­car to and from work, was also op­ti­mistic about the project.

“I think it might make it a lit­tle bit faster, if to­day is an ex­am­ple,” she said. “Less car traf­fic the bet­ter. More peo­ple should take pub­lic tran­sit.”

For some driv­ers, how­ever, the changes ap­peared un­ex­pected and caused con­fu­sion.

Jake Fra­chette sat de­jected in his car af­ter be­ing pulled over by a po­lice of­fi­cer on the street af­ter he drove through a busy in­ter­sec­tion. “Hon­estly, I had no idea about this,” he said. “I guess it’s good for com­muters, I don’t know, but it’s also kind of an­noy­ing.”

It will take time for driv­ers to grow ac­cus­tomed to the new rules, po­lice ac­knowl­edged.

Const. Clint Stibbe, with Toronto po­lice’s traf­fic ser­vices, said they is­sued warn­ings to dozens of driv­ers dur­ing Mon­day morn­ing’s rush hour com­mute.

Po­lice are giv­ing driv­ers a week’s grace be­fore they start hand­ing out tick­ets – $110 and two de­merit points – for go­ing straight through many in­ter­sec­tions on King Street in the down­town core, he said.

Mo­torists are largely only per­mit­ted to drive one block be­fore hav­ing to turn right, and there is no on-street park­ing in the pi­lot area. Taxis are al­lowed to travel through the in­ter­sec­tions only be­tween 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Left-hand turns are also banned on the stretch of King Street where the pi­lot project is tak­ing place, be­tween Jarvis and Bathurst streets.

“The way I’m look­ing at it, if you’re at a light, make a right,” Stibbe said.

For the Toronto Tran­sit Com­mis­sion, the pi­lot project was much needed.

“This is all about giv­ing the 65,000 peo­ple who ride the street­car ev­ery day pri­or­ity ver­sus 20,000 cars on the street ev­ery day,” said TTC spokesman Brad Ross. “In some cases you can walk faster than by tak­ing the street­car and that’s not right.”

In­spi­ra­tion for the project comes partly from Eu­rope, Ross said, where sev­eral cities have street­cars with ded­i­cated rights of way, he said. The chal­lenge in Toronto is it’s one of the few cities in the world where street­cars share the road with ve­hi­cles, he said.

The goal of the project, Ross said, is sim­ple.

“It’s about mak­ing the cor­ri­dor tran­sit and pedes­trian friendly,” he said. “We ad­ver­tise a street­car ev­ery four min­utes, so we should have a street­car ar­rive ev­ery four min­utes.”

The TTC will pre­pare a full re­port at the project’s con­clu­sion and take it to their board and then city coun­cil with rec­om­men­da­tions.

CP PHOTO

A po­lice con­sta­ble speaks to a taxis driver dur­ing the sec­ond day of the King Street Tran­sit Pi­lot in­volv­ing city street­cars on Mon­day.

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