A proposal that could turn Toronto’s King Street into a car-free zone during the morning commute has been met with a mixed response at city hall.
The feasibility of the proposal, and the need for further study, will be discussed at a Toronto Transit Commission board meeting Monday. The proposal could see a downtown stretch of King become a streetcar-only route during the morning rush.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday told reporters at city hall Thursday he doesn’t consider the plan “a very realistic option.”
“I don’t think the public will go for that,” he said.
Councillor Adam Vaughan wouldn’t commit to banning cars from King during the morning rush, but said he does support further study.
“This is not a question of saying ‘yes’ now and thinking it through later,” he said.
But Councillor Karen Stintz, the TTC’s chair, called the plan “exciting.”
“It's something we do want to look at. I think if we take the time to consult with the businesses that are going to be impacted, to work with the local councillors on why this initiative may not have succeeded in the past, and that we look at it in a contained pilot project, I think we could find it will be quite successful,” she said.
She said the TTC could, for instance, try out the streetcar-only route during the Pan Am Games, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.
Andy Byford, the TTC’s chief executive officer, said the organization needs to think radically to make its streetcar system more efficient. He said King is the busiest streetcar route, carrying around 57,000 people each day. He said it will only get busier.
“I’m trying to be proactive here. My job is to advocate for transit riders so I think the time has come to at least look at the potential for a limited window in which transit would have a free road in which to operate in the morning peak,” he said.
Mr. Byford said the streetcar service isn’t reliable enough and it’s his job to fix it.
He said there have been previous attempts to turn a stretch of King into a streetcar-only route, though they were unsuccessful because cars were banned for a longer period of time, drawing concerns from businesses.
Mr. Byford stressed a full traffic impact survey would need to be conducted before any changes were made and car drivers as entitled to the road as anyone.
Though the exact stretch that would be streetcar-only would need to be determined, he said Shaw to Parliament could be a possibility.
Mr. Byford said he’d also like to study whether Queen Street could be a streetcar-only route, though it’s unlikely both Queen and King could be car-free during the morning rush.
He said he’s begun talking to councillors about the idea, though he doesn’t expect everyone to support it.