Motorists can expect some big changes on a busy downtown route starting Sunday as the King Street pilot project officially begins.
As part of the one-year pilot project, all traffic on King Street, between Jarvis and Bathurst streets, is only permitted to travel one block before being forced to turn right.
Cars travelling eastbound on King Street must turn at Bathurst Street and vehicles traveling westbound must turn when approaching Jarvis Street.
The city has removed all on-street parking spaces between Bathurst and Jarvis streets.
Drivers will also be prohibited from turning left at signalized intersections along King Street during the pilot.
City of Toronto maintenance vehicles and emergency vehicles are exempt from the new rules.
Taxis will also be allowed to travel along the street from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“This is about putting people and transit first. This is about the 65,000 people who ride the 504 King streetcar every day, our busiest surface route, versus about 20,000 people who drive in cars,” TTC spokesperson Brad Ross told CP24 Sunday morning.
“There is an imbalance there and we need to fix that because right now King is not working. We need to get people moving. The King Street core in the downtown is often congested. One single-occupancy car making a left hand turn can in effect hold up 100 people on a streetcar.”
He said while he expects it will take some time for drivers to adjust, he noted that there are a number of alternate routes for drivers to take instead of King Street.
“What we have seen in other cities around the world that have done this is initially, yes, for the first couple of weeks you are going to see some of that congestion (on other streets) but eventually it sort of works itself out,” Ross said. “People get used to it, they find other alternatives or they take transit and they leave their car at home.”
During the pilot, the city will be monitoring ridership numbers and travel times on the King streetcar as well as traffic congestion on nearby routes.
Ross said police will be out in full force in the next week to help educate drivers about the changes.
“Police will be at key intersections. They will be handing out brochures. They want to educate and inform drivers before they start enforcing this with tickets,” Ross said.
“They will be enforcing this in the coming weeks.”
He added that the city has put up a significant amount of signage to make sure motorists understand the changes.
“We don’t want people getting tickets,” Ross said. “We want people actually abiding by the rules.”
Here is a list of traffic changes during the pilot:
• Vehicles travelling eastbound on King Street must turn left or right at Bathurst Street. Vehicles travelling westbound must turn left or right at Jarvis Street.
• Through vehicular traffic should use other parallel east-west streets: Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, Front, Queens Quay, Lake Shore and the Gardiner Expressway, and then access King Street via north-south streets.
• TTC vehicles, City of Toronto emergency and maintenance vehicles, and cyclists are allowed to travel through the pilot area at all times of the day.
• Space for cyclists is provided in the curb lane but no dedicated bike lanes are provided.
• Between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., City-licensed taxis are allowed to travel straight through the pilot area. At other times, taxis must follow the same rules as other traffic.
• There is no on-street parking on King Street in the pilot area. On-street parking is available on some nearby streets and there are several off-street parking lots near King Street.
• While travelling on King Street, left turns at signalized intersections (turning off King Street) are not allowed.
• Current turning restrictions for accessing King Street will remain in place (where left turns onto King Street were previously permitted, they will continue to be permitted).
• Existing permitted movements and restrictions on north-south streets will continue after the launch of the King Street Transit Pilot. For example, vehicle traffic on all north-south streets in the pilot area (such as Bathurst, Spadina, John, University and Yonge) can still cross King Street.