Consider yourself warned.
The King Street pilot project officially began on Sunday and police are out in full force this morning handing out maps to drivers to spread the word about the major traffic changes along the busy downtown roadway.
Although officers are giving drivers a bit of a grace period to get used to the new rules, Const. Clint Stibbe said repeat offenders will be in for more than a slap on the wrist.
“When we do a written warning, it goes into our system and it’s actually recorded. So an officer, if they stop that same individual and see that they are on the system already as being warned, then I’m going to suggest that that person is now going to get charged,” Stibbe said.
As part of the one-year pilot, all traffic on King Street, between Jarvis and Bathurst streets, is only permitted to travel one block before being forced to turn right.
Cars heading eastbound on King Street must turn at Bathurst Street and vehicles traveling westbound must turn when approaching Jarvis Street.
Additionally, the city has removed all on-street parking spaces between Bathurst and Jarvis streets.
Drivers are also prohibited from turning left at signalized intersections along King Street over the course of 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.
While city staff, the TTC, and police have tried to get the word out about the project, Stibbe said it appears many drivers still haven’t gotten the message.
He said between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. on Monday, he observed dozens of cars breaking the rules.
“Saying, ‘I don’t know’ isn’t a defence,” Stibbe said.
“This doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want on King Street. You are still going to be educated and where necessary, there will be enforcement.”
While no one was fined today, Stibbe said starting next Monday, police will start issuing tickets to first-time offenders.
"We actually have officers 24/7 for the next two weeks that will be monitoring and issuing warnings and then moving into an enforcement capacity," he said.
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross says the purpose of the project is to reduce congestion on the downtown street and get streetcars moving faster along the route.
“I think we can expect that it is going to take everybody a couple of weeks to adjust and to adapt,” Ross said.
“I think we need a couple of weeks to really let this work itself out and then we’ll have to take a look and see what other tweaks we may need to make with respect to light timings on other roads for example and continuing to educate the public and inform the public about these changes.”
Torontonians divided on new rules:
Although today is a holiday Monday for many people in the Financial District, traffic congestion had markedly decreased during the morning commute Monday.
“So far it is pretty impressive,” one King Street resident told CP24 Monday. “I’m used to an aggressive amount of traffic at almost all times of the day and… it is Monday morning right now and there is barely anything on the roads.”
Some area residents who own vehicles, however, say they are not so pleased with the changes.
“It is literally impossible to get up and down the street so you have to find a new way to get everywhere you want to go. When I pull onto King Street out of my condo I actually just have to find a new way around town,” one resident said.
“It is a little bit frustrating for everyone involved.”
Some people have expressed concern about how the new rules will impact businesses in the neighbourhood.
Ross said the TTC will be monitoring debit and credit card data from retail transactions along the route to see how businesses are being affected by the changes.
“Is it up, down, the same? Those are the kinds of measurements the city will be looking at,” Ross said.
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.