The King Car will be up for discussion at Toronto & East York Community Council next Monday (September 10), just two days before the TTC itself meets to decide what may happen with fares and service in 2008. Item TE8.41 on the agenda includes both the TTC’s original request which was met with some considerable opposition by area merchants and some counterproposals that were tabled for discussion (item TE8.41a).
These proposals, viewed jointly with the work I have done analyzing operations in the route, raise a number of questions.
Installation of a temporary right-of-way between Yonge and University during July and August 2008 based on the TTC’s design concept, but implemented in a manner similar to that used in 2006 on Queen’s Quay to test the reconfiguration of that street.
Expansion of the hours of prohibited parking and stopping so that they would end at 10:00 am and 7:00 pm instead of an hour earlier as at present.
Installation of taxi lay-bys between Bay and York Streets.
In fact, although there is demonstrable congestion in this area, this is not the only location where traffic gets blocked up. Indeed, there are far more serious problems west of University in the evening due to theatre and club district traffic and parking, and this comes at a time when service is less frequent and short turns have dire effects at the extremities of the line.
Congestion in the proposed area is due primarily to illegal parking and delivery as well as major taxi stand operations. See the proposal below regarding enforcement. The travel times through the core, and especially the theatre district, start to rise about 20 minutes before the parking restrictions end showing the effect of motorists hunting for potential spaces and the few who park a bit early, chancing a ticket, but taking road space when it is still needed. Any change in parking and stopping restrictions is meaningless without proper enforcement (see below).
The taxi lay-bys need to be an integral part of the TTC’s design which is intended to block through traffic along parts of King Street. Either the lay-bys are carved out of the existing curb lanes, or this is a de-facto road widening proposal. Some clarity is needed for this idea.
The TTC is to report on rear-door loading.
A good chunk of travel along the route (and not just in the core) is consumed with loading passengers. With overcrowded service, this has a compound effect as the time required to service stops goes up steeply once people cannot move freely through vehicles. This is an often-overlooked component of calls for “efficiency” — some empty space in a transit vehicle is actually useful for passenger movement and reduced trip times. Notable by its absence is any request that the TTC report on actual loading conditions and service quality.
Rear-door loading is already practised at some major stops although this is, to some extent, dependent on the availability of staff to act as fare checkers. Proof-of-Payment (POP) where all doors are opened whether there is someone to check fares or not, is not implemented on King as it is on Queen.
An integral part of any POP system is enforcement, and it is extremely rare that a POP inspector is actually encountered. This is a budgetary issue because the POP staff are special constables travelling in pairs.
Refer a motion to the Works & Infrastructure Committee that would direct City Staff to initiate actions with Queen’s Park to expand the use of red light cameras to enforce turn restrictions, stopping and parking violations.
Request the Toronto Police Service to commit resources for continual and ongoing enforcement of all applicable traffic regulations in the King Street Transit Priority Zone.
I will not comment on the ability of a camera, except possibly one with X-ray vision, to read all of the license plates on the illegally parked and stopped vehicles on King Street.
These proposals show how Toronto continues to tip-toe around a very basic issue: the police should not be handling traffic violations of this nature. In other jurisdictions this is assigned to a specific corps, and indeed in Vancouver, tow-truck drivers do not require permission from a police officer to remove a car when the rush-hour restrictions come into effect. If Toronto is serious that its streets should be used to move vehicles rather than to store them, then the enforcement of traffic bylaws is an important business.
This is akin to energy conservation: the cheapest additional road capacity is the lanes we already have, but use for parking and deliveries. We can complain about the congestion, or we can enforce the regulations already on the books.
Designate King Street between Dufferin and Parliament as a Transit Priority Zone where fines for traffic and parking violations would be doubled.
The Transit Priority Zone now extends, needlessly I believe, all the way from Parliament to Dufferin. If we are going to get tough on violations, we need to be sure we really need the laws now in place. As an historical note, the original more-modest King Street proposal was from Jarvis to Bathurst, but then-Councillor Layton boldly proposed an expansion that actually undermined the credibility of the zone. It should be shortened to cover areas where there really is a problem.
Right now, the TTC and Council are pre-occupied with the budget crisis, and we may not see any concrete action on this proposal. If anything comes of next Monday’s meeting, I will report on it here.