Toronto City Council has approved a one-year pilot – beginning this fall – which will significantly change the way people get around the city. For a 2.6 km stretch between Bathurst and Jarvis, there will be no through traffic from private vehicles allowed. If you drive onto King in the restricted area you will have to turn right at the next intersection. The idea is to make the King streetcar line more efficient. According to the Toronto Star, the King line carries 65,000 people each day and is the city’s busiest surface route.
We live in Long Branch in the southwest corner of the amalgamated Toronto. I go downtown perhaps once or twice each month, for instance when I want to visit Yumart, my art dealer. Unless there is some kind of event that will bung up traffic, I typically drive. Outside of rush hour, I’ll take the Gardiner Expressway to Jameson, go up Jameson to King, and then drive along King and look for street parking between Bathurst and Spadina. I try to arrange my business so that if it is during the week I can get in and out before 3:00 when street parking is disallowed. I won’t be able to do that anymore.
We live a short walk from the streetcar line, but if I do take public transit downtown, I rarely take the streetcar. That’s because the streetcar is notoriously slow past Ronsesvalles. Instead, I’ll either take a Kipling bus to the subway, or drive to Islington subway, park there, and take the subway downtown. Even going to Spadina and King, it’s preferable to me to take the subway to Spadina and the Spadina car south than it is to take the streetcar east.
Another option is to take the Go Train. It’s fast, but there are some downsides to it. To start with, there is very limited parking at the Long Branch Go station, which is just far enough west of us that I don’t want to walk there, and taking the streetcar west to the Go station is additional cost and time.
If the King Street experiment is successful and the streetcar becomes a much faster option, I’ll use it. I’ll walk up the street to Lakeshore and take the streetcar downtown – and be happy about it. I’m not attached to the idea of driving downtown. I do it because the transit option hasn’t been very attractive for me. To me the big question is this. Will the experiment speed up the streetcar enough to make it an viable and attractive option? It will certainly make it more onerous to drive downtown – and not just along King Street.
It’s my expectation that as the city continues to grow, it will become less and less reasonable to take a car into the core. I’m good with that as long as we aggressively invest in transit improvement along the way. It will not take a year for us to know if the King St Pilot is working. I think it will be obvious very quickly. It’s going to affect my own habits, but I’m willing to change. Let’s see what happens.
Toronto drivers and transit users, what do you think?