City officials are expressing concern that inconsistent enforcement and a mess of circumstances have made transit times along King Street longer than they were before the streetcar was given the right of way.

The King Street Transit Pilot was launched in 2017 to give streetcars priority between Bathurst and Jarvis streets as commute times along the busy transit line became painful.

The idea was found to be a success and the pilot was eventually made permanent.

Cars can still use King Street along the route, but they are not allowed to drive through intersections, aside from taxis between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

But in an interview with, Coun. Chris Moise said lately the streetcar right-of-way is “just not working.”

He said it’s become an “open secret” that drivers can get away with flouting the special rules on King Street which are meant to give the streetcars priority, often in an effort to avoid congestion on other nearby streets.

“It heightened not only during the pandemic, but also since Queen Street closed, there have been problems on Adelaide, like people are just not following the rules of the road,” Moise said. “And I think it's also a danger to pedestrians and others because people don't expect to see vehicles speeding down King Street the way they have been, and I've seen some close calls myself.”

The TTC says their data show that travel times which initially improved by the right-of-way on King Street have slid backwards.

“Our most recent data indicates that travel times today between Jarvis and Bathurst are as bad or worse than they were prior to the King pilot in 2017,” TTC Spokesperson Stuart Green told in an email.

He said maintaining a reliable and consistent service is proving “tricky” and cited a sample of average travel times in September for eastbound trips between Bathurst and Jarvis between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Prior to the King Street Pilot Project in 2017, the trip took an average of 23 minutes. A year later after the pilot had been implemented, it took an average of just 16 minutes.

However this year, the same trip took an average of 26 minutes, wiping out the gains from the pilot and adding three minutes to the sluggish commute time from six years ago.

The TTC was not able to provide a full data set of recent travel times for comparison.

“We believe much of this is likely due to increased encroachment (legal and illegal) on the priority corridor by cars diverting around construction congestion,” Green said. “This would include increased numbers of ride share vehicles in the downtown core.”

The route is also dotted with a high number of construction projects, including work for the Ontario Line, which has necessitated diversions.

Weekday streetcar ridership in the priority area on King Street averages about 45,000 people per day, according to the TTC.

The city gave out thousands of tickets to drivers when the pilot first started in 2017.  

But in a recent motion adopted at Toronto City Council, Moise said enforcement of traffic regulations along the corridor recently has been “inconsistent.”

“Drivers routinely disregard the regulations put in place, compromising the efficiency of this critical transit route,” Moise said in his motion, which called for the city to provide an update on streetcar performance from the past five years and to also explore the possibility of adding automated traffic enforcement along the King Street Transit Priority Corridor.

“The Toronto Police, especially in 51 and 52 Divisions, are challenged with bigger priorities that require their valuable time and effort,” Moise said in the motion. “We recognize that they are committed to maintaining the safety and welfare of our city and do not have the capacity to monitor traffic on King Street continuously.”

Moise told that the construction in the area and the lack of enforcement have created a “perfect storm” that is slowing down streetcar traffic on King.

“I can only imagine the frustration of the public who have to deal with this out there every day,” he said.

His motion was supported by transit advocacy group TTC Riders.

In a letter, TTC Riders Executive Director Shelagh Pizey-Allen said an automated camera enforcement framework was introduced by the province in 2021 to allow onboard cameras on streetcars to gather evidence of vehicles that illegally pass streetcars.

“Together, transit priority measures and the use of automated cameras for enforcement of transit priority corridors will make the TTC more reliable, attract more ridership and increase the speeds of buses and streetcars,” Pizey-Allen said in the letter.

The motion from Moise asked the relevant department heads to report back to the Executive Committee in the second quarter of 2024 about the possibility of adding automated enforcement along the route.

“I’m hoping something positive comes back and we can actually deal with this,” Moise said. “And if it works the way I hope it will, maybe we can try it in other areas.”