This week’s TTC agenda includes a report called Improvements to the 504 King Streetcar Service. You can read the details on the TTC’s site, but here are the high points and my comments on them.
Installation of a temporary reserved right-of-way on a four-to-five block section of King Street as a demonstration project in July and August 2008.
This proposal is modelled on the successful scheme down on Queen’s Quay, although I doubt we will be so lucky as to see bike lanes and geraniums up on King. It is unclear which section of King would have the trial, although there is a suggestion in the report that it go west of John to pick up the restaurant district. If so, a 4-to-5 block stretch won’t make it to Yonge Street.
While this will be interesting to see, it will benefit offpeak operations as much as the peak if most of the reserved lane is in the theatre/club district. However, it’s much harder to justify a reserved lane for the offpeak headway on King given other interests who will want all four traffic lanes. The TTC is using peak period demands and headways to argue for reserved lanes, but there are problems in the offpeak as well.
A much more reasonable proposal would have been to ban parking (see below).
Rescind the existing “transit lane” on King from Dufferin to John, and from Jarvis to Parliament, because it isn’t enforced anyhow. Expand the peak no-parking period from 7:00 to 10:00 am and from 3:00 to 7:00 pm. Designate King from Dufferin to Parliament as a “transit priority zone” where fines for traffic and parking violations would be doubled. Expand the use of red-light cameras to include King Street intersections.
I think that the hours of “no parking” need to be expanded. If we count up the number of spaces on King in the theatre district versus the number of seats in various theatres, it is clear that parking on King itself does not contribute much to the overall capacity for people coming to these venues. The same argument holds for the restaurant strip west of John. If we are going to talk about taking space for transit, the easiest source of that space is the parking strip.
Staff to report back on the feasibility and cost of constructing taxi lay-bys on King from Bay to York.
Again, we can use streets to store traffic, or to move it. If the taxis in the financial district are considered essential, then make room for them so that there are two working lanes each way. Otherwise, start towing.
Elsewhere in the report, staff note that they have added cars to provide extra capacity above what the Service Standards would otherwise dictate. Well yes, but that was at least four years ago and riding is still climbing. This extra service, taking the line down to a 2-minute headway, only operates in the AM peak and is timed to hit the inbound peak through Parkdale and the Bathurst/Niagara neighbourhoods. The PM peak service remains every 4 minutes.
Congestion on King is not a serious problem in the AM peak. Indeed, although there is congestion through the core in the midday and afternoon, there is also congestion in Parkdale (any problem on the Gardiner or special event at the CNE), in the Theatre/Club district (evenings from roughly Wednesday through Saturday), and on Roncesvalles Avenue (some weekends). None of the TTC’s proposals addresses this.
The report claims that a previous scheme for dedicated reserved lanes and closing of King to much traffic was opposed by business owners and some Councillors. This is understandable considering that a permanent installation is an all-day affair and the level of off-peak service on King is not all that frequent. As I said above, it also gets tied up in areas other than the core.
There is a fascinating table showing riding on the King car from Dufferin to Parliament, and the PM peak from 5:00 to 6:00 (3040 riders) is nearly as high as the AM from 8:00 to 9:00 (3450) even though there is less service. Note that on a 2-minute headway, there are only 30 cars per hour, and obviously we are getting good turnover of passengers and bidirectional traffic to get that many riders per car, especially in the PM.
The transit market share on King is at or above 60% from Strachan to Yonge hitting a peak around 70% at Spadina. I wonder how much higher it would be if we could fit more people on the service?