Group of King Street business owners continue campaign against pilot project
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Monday, January 22, 2018 11:04AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 22, 2018 8:00PM EST
A group of business owners who oppose a pilot project that limits vehicular traffic along a busy section of King Street have launched a social media campaign calling for the reversal of the one-year initiative.
The social media campaign, spearheaded by Kit Kat restaurant owner Al Carbone, asks members of the public to voice their support for scrapping the pilot by using the hashtag #ReverseKingCarBan.
While cars are not in fact banned on King Street, drivers between Jarvis and Bathurst streets are limited to travelling one block before being forced to turn right.
The purpose of the project is to improve commute times for the tens of thousands of people who use the King streetcar every day, a goal the city says has so far been achieved.
But speaking to reporters on Monday morning, Carbone said small businesses in the area are “losing big money” as a result of the project.
“They destroyed it overnight. It’s a ghost town,” he said.
Despite the city’s attempts to work with business owners to bring customers to King Street, Carbone said he believes the only solution is to scrap the project.
“(The plan) It’s not thought out properly,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose every day.”
Mayor John Tory told CP24 Monday that the city has to balance the interests of the transit users and the business owners in the neighbourhood.
“On the streetcar side, it is working. You just have to ask the riders in the streetcars that their trip is much, much faster and so that’s working but it has had an impact on business,” Tory said.
He said the city is trying to get the message out that King Street is open for business.
“We are going to be running ads and putting things on social media to help promote the fact that it’s open and you should come down here for lunch, come for a drink, come for dinner,” the mayor said.
The city has announced a number of initiatives that aim to bring business to the downtown neighbourhood, including discounted parking and a Winterlicious-style event called “Eats on King.”
The mayor noted that there have been other factors that have impacted profits for business owners in the neighbourhood since the pilot was launched.
“The theatres haven’t really had much content in them in the latter part of last year. Now they are going to have ‘Come From Away’ and they are going to be full,” he said.
“We had record cold weather, which I hope will not be repeated for a whole bunch of reasons.”
Tory said the city is listening to the business owners but urged them not to be too quick to dismiss the project as a bust.
“You have to be careful not to take unduly hasty reactions to these things when you are less than three months into a year-long project,” he added.
“We are working with them (business owners) now and I’m mystified as to why they don’t want to work with us. They want to sort of be political about this and keep perpetuating the notion that King Street is closed.”