The city will offer a $10 discount to those parking in select on-street spaces near the King Street pilot as part of their latest attempt to address the sagging profits reported by many bars and restaurants in the area.
The parking discount will be available to anyone using the Green P app to pay for parking in select on-street spaces and lots that are located immediately north and south of the pilot area.
Follow this link for a map showing eligible spaces
The discount will allow for a minimum of two hours free parking for anyone visiting the area, whenever they visit the area and replaces a one-time $5 discount that the city introduced shortly after the launch of the pilot project.
The city announced the discount on Friday morning as part of a number of initiatives aimed at addressing the concerns of business owners. Some of the other initiatives included improvements to signage, the addition of 90 on-street parking spaces on side streets near the pilot area to partially offset the loss of 180 on-street spaces on King and the creation of several new designated loading zones for businesses in the pilot area.
Earlier this week, the city also announced the launch of a Winterlicious –style promotional campaign called “Eats on King” to boost business along the corridor and brought in ice sculptures and street performers to entice pedestrians to the area. The city is also seeking submissions on what to do with 15 new public spaces that have been created as a result of the removal of on-street parking spaces through the pilot area.
"We are dedicated to making sure King Street works for everyone," Mayor John Tory said in a press release. "I believe these updates to the pilot will help transit riders, businesses and drivers. I remain committed to listening to everyone about this project and making changes where they make sense."
Business owners meeting with Tory
The city announced the parking discount as Tory met with a group of business owners and representatives from the King BIA at city hall.
The business owners are calling for the city to suspend the pilot on weekends and after 7 p.m. on weekdays but Tory has largely dismissed the idea.
“We are trying to inform the mayor the real losses,” Todd Sherman, president of the Urban Dining Group, told CP24 prior to the meeting. “This week alone we have cut more than 100 hours in our restaurants. I’ve got 80 employees on King and we have dropped 10 per cent of those employees at this point.”
Sherman’s company operates a number of restaurants on King Street, including Gabby’s, Hey Lucy and Hush.
He told CP24 that he has seen his restaurants sales decline by 14 to 16 per cent since the launch of the King Street pilot, something that he said had a “traumatic” on their bottom-line as many of his restaurants only operate with a five per cent profit margin.
“If you take the tens of millions spent in that Entertainment District and you measure it against 2.6 minutes (in improved streetcar times), I just don’t get the math,” he said. “The ice sculptures that they put out there that are thousands and thousands of dollars look great but they are melting away like our profits are.”
King St. business displays vulgar message
One of the restaurants on this stretch of King Street, Kit Kat Bar and Grill, placed a vulgar message outside of their business in retaliation of the city’s pilot project.
A giant ice sculpture in the shape of a middle finger was set up outside of the restaurant located on King Street near John Street on Friday evening.
Kit Kat Bar and Grill is one of the restaurants asking the city to alter the traffic regulations in the area saying it is affecting business.
The owner of the restaurant Al Carbone told CP24 on Friday night that he and other business owners in the area have not had their voices heard by the municipal government.
“You don’t care about small businesses, you’re hurting small businesses and that’s the kind of respect we get from them,” he said standing beside the ice sculpture. “That’s the bottom line.”
Carbone said the business owners want to work with the city to implement a different approach to easing traffic in the area.
“We want to change it, we want to work with them but give us a break – we are losing tons of money,” he said. “This street was vibrant at one time and we want to bring that back.”
Streetcar commute times have improved
Though many business owners have expressed concerns about a drop in profits as a result of restrictions placed on vehicles travelling on King Street, data released by the city has suggested that the pilot is having its desired effect.
According to the latest batch of data released on Friday morning, the average commute time from Jarvis to Bathurst Street on the 504 streetcar has improved by up to four minutes.
During the afternoon rush hour, when the improvements were more pronounced, eastbound travel times through the pilot area took an average of 21.3 minutes down from 25 minutes before the launch of the project. Westbound commute times, meanwhile, were 19.7 minutes on average compared to 24 minutes on average prior to the launch.
During the morning rush hour the average eastbound streetcar made it through the pilot area in 15.1 minutes, which is only slightly faster than the 15.3 minute average recorded before the launch of the pilot. Westbound streetcars, meanwhile, needed 14.8 minutes on average to make it through the pilot area compared to 15.2 minutes before the launch.
The data also revealed that rush hour ridership on the King streetcar has increased by up to 25 per cent since the launch of the pilot, something the city has addressed by additional vehicles to the route.
Speaking with CP24 earlier on Friday one business owner said that the improved commute times just aren’t worth the negative impact that the pilot is having on businesses.
“Right now we are in a recession, next week we will be in a depression. After that it will be bankruptcy,” he said.
The King Street pilot is supposed to end sometime before Dec. 31, 2018.