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A southbound 510 streetcar on Spadina Avenue south of Dundas Street West in Toronto.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto city staff are going to look at ushering transit riders through the downtown core during morning rush hour with extended streetcar-only lanes on King Street and more enforcement.

The decision to examine the issue comes after the TTC board this summer raised the problem of other vehicles blocking its streetcars along King, the transit service's busiest surface route.

"Because of the number of people that it moves, [transit] has to have first priority," said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chairman of the public works and infrastructure committee, which approved study of the idea at its meeting Friday. "And I suspect that, if transit wasn't so congested on King Street, you might actually have freer-flowing traffic, because more people might use it."

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Most other vehicles are currently banned from parts of the streetcar route during weekday rush hour, though enforcement is spotty. And the restriction doesn't extend across the busiest part of the city, running from Parliament to Jarvis and then stopping, before picking up again at Spadina and continuing on to Dufferin.

The motion passed by the committee asks city staff to report back as soon as possible on ways to enforce these lanes, designate their restricted status and measure their effectiveness. It also asks staff to look at the cost of implementation and their effects on other traffic. But potentially its greatest impact will come from the instruction to look at the merits and feasibility of extending the existing streetcar-only lanes, which Mr. Minnan-Wong said should be taken to mean linking the two current portions.

Not included in the motion is a TTC request for advice about "the earliest practical date" for a trial implementation, a notion that Transportation Services general manager Stephen Buckley likened to "diving into solutions."

City numbers show the importance of King for motorists moving through the core. During the work week, from 7:30 in the morning to 6 at night, about 22,000 vehicles pass through King and Spadina each day. Almost 19,500 vehicles go across the intersection of King and University and approximately 12,000 go through where it meets Yonge. But the TTC, whose streetcars along the artery carry nearly 57,000 people daily, says that too many of these vehicles are slowing the passage of its vehicles.

City numbers show the importance of King for motorists moving through the core. During the work week, from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., about 22,000 vehicles pass through King's intersection with Spadina each day. Nearly 19,500 vehicles cross at University and approximately 12,000 go through the intersection where King crosses Yonge. But the TTC, whose streetcars along the artery carry about 57,000 people daily, says that too many of these vehicles are slowing the passage of its vehicles.

"Oftentimes there's big numbers associated with, you know, building a subway or an LRT when we can look for simple fixes that don't cost a lot of money to move transit riders," Mr. Minnan-Wong said, in a jab at the city's grandiose but often inconclusive transit dreams. "So here's something that doesn't cost a lot of money, that won't take 10 or 15 years to build and that we won't have to ask the federal, provincial governments for money."

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