King Street Pilot Design Unveiled (Updated Oct. 30, 2017)

Updated October 30, 2017 at 10:00 pm: The City has announced the timing of various works to prepare King Street for the pilot implementation.

As various elements of the pilot appear, I will post photos here for those who are not regularly in the downtown area.

Updated October 25, 2017 at 10:50 am: The treatment of left turns from King at minor intersections, and of left turns onto King, has been clarified by the City. Also, my reference to a reduction in the number of taxi spaces in the banking district has been clarified.

The City of Toronto has released the design for new lane arrangements for the coming pilot of a transit and pedestrian oriented King Street that will go live in the second week of November.

The illustrations below are taken from a single long pdf on the City’s project website. Click for larger versions.

The pilot section of King to be modified runs from Bathurst to Jarvis. Between these bounds, through traffic will be discouraged by forcing motorists to turn off at regular intervals, and left turns will be banned.

The street will be broken into segments by intersections where all traffic except transit vehicles must turn off of King. Taxis are exempted from this rule between 10 pm and 5 am, but they must be bona fide, identifiable taxis, not Uber vehicles or private cars pretending to be.

  • Bathurst to Portland
  • Portland to Spadina
  • Spadina to Peter / Blue Jays Way
  • Peter to University
  • University to Yonge
  • Yonge to Church
  • Church to Jarvis

Vehicles wishing to access any segment of King will have to do so via the intersecting north-south streets, and through travel will be forced to divert to parallel roads.

At some locations it is now possible to make a left turn onto King from a north-south street (either a south to east or north to west turn). No ban on these turns is shown in the map, but they are not shown as possible ways to access King.

Some side streets such as Brant Street (other similar locations are Charlotte, Widmer, Duncan and Jordan, Victoria and Toronto Streets, and Leader Lane) can be accessed from King by left turns only during certain hours. It is unclear whether the hours of the ban will be extended or remain as is for the pilot.

Updated October 25: I asked the City to clarify these issues and they replied:

The map shows only new restrictions (all existing restrictions continue, and a note is being added to clarify).

Since we are making some signal changes, the left-turn prohibition is meant to apply to major (signalized) intersections. So some left turns, while being discouraged, are not prohibited. Of course, we will monitor and make adjustments as required if we start to see major impacts.

Similarly, we are not initially banning turns onto King Street, beyond existing restrictions, but these regulations could change over the course of the pilot project.

We fully expect that traffic patterns in the area will change significantly, and plan to respond accordingly. University Avenue is certainly one location that we’ll be watching closely.

[Email from David Kuperman, October 25, 2017]

At many locations, the transit stops will be moved “farside”, that is the streetcar will cross the intersection before stopping, and at these locations the sidewalk space will be widened out into what is now the curb lane to provide an expanded transit stop. The existing transit shelters will not be moved, but new ones will be installed at some of the relocated stops (the details are not yet published).

The farside stops will be protected from curb lane traffic with Jersey barriers that will be decorated for the pilot. Come the spring, a more attractive barrier such as planters might be used. The important point is that nothing will be “nailed down” and the configuration will be easy to change.

Sections of the curb lanes will be set aside for various purposes, and these are colour-coded in the diagrams below:

  • taxi zones (yellow)
  • accessible loading areas (pink)
  • passenger pick up/drop off/loading zones (blue)
  • public spaces such as seating, cafés or bicycle parking (green)

The most challenging points for traffic will be at the entries to the pilot area eastbound at Bathurst and westbound at Jarvis where through traffic will be forced to turn right or left. Bathurst is already the site of congestion eastbound, particularly in the morning peak, although the turns will be simpler with little westbound conflicting traffic.

Pedestrians will also be subject to new rules with dedicated right turn phases to allow cars to make their turns off of King at some locations. This will be a new experience for downtown where pedestrians travel in waves that give little quarter to competing traffic.

Although there are designated cab stands, considerable portions of the street will be given over to pedestrian areas that cabs could not access, notably west of Spadina in what is now the busiest part of the club district. By contrast, the north side of King in the Theatre District from Simcoe west to Widmer is designated as a zone for pick ups and drop offs.

Generally speaking, the curb lane is not maintained as a continuous route for traffic.

Enforcement will be key to making this work, and there is a very real chance, given past experience with City and Police priorities, that actively managing the pilot area will be a short-lived affair. Mayor Tory has talked about “Traffic Wardens” in the new year, and these will have to be out in force.

Bathurst to Brant

Through traffic will be banned both at Bathurst and at Portland.

The eastbound stop at Bathurst will be shifted farside so that stopped streetcars do not block traffic that is forced to turn north from the streetcar lane. This should work provided that the streetcars are not bunched and blocked from crossing to the carstop because it is already occupied. The westbound stop will remain in its current location.

Portland is another break for through traffic on King, and through east-west moves will not be allowed here. As at Bathurst, the eastbound carstop will be shifted farside.

Spadina to Widmer

Both Spadina Avenue and Peter Street are locations where through traffic is not allowed. Carstops here will be moved farside in both directions. The elimination of through traffic at Spadina should make turns by streetcars, when they are necessary, a lot simpler because there will be less competing traffic. The large volume of pedestrians here is another matter.

Note that on both sides of King, there are areas earmarked for improvements that will block through traffic in the curb lane.

John to University

This is the main Theatre District with four major venues:

  • TIFF at the northwest corner at John Street
  • The Princess of Wales just east of John Street on the north side
  • The Royal Alexandra east of Duncan Street on the north side
  • Roy Thomson Hall on the southwest corner at Simcoe Street

The north side curb lane is dedicated mostly for drop offs and pick ups, and this is an area already heavily used by tour buses coming to the theatres. They are not intended to park in the drop off areas. On the south side, there are extended areas reserved for pedestrian improvements that will prevent travel in this lane.

The carstops at John are both shifted to the farside of the intersection. This will place the westbound stop right in front of the TIFF Lightbox building, and this stop will almost certainly be taken out of service when the annual film festival is running (assuming there even is a King car). Left turns will not be allowed at John Street in either direction.

At Simcoe, the left turn is now a considerable delay for King cars when the theatres are busy, and this turn will be prohibited.

University Avenue is another break in the segments along King, and its carstops will be moved farside in both directions. Left turns from King, now a considerable source of delay eastbound, will be banned.

York to Victoria

There is no longer a carstop eastbound at York, although the relocated University stop eastbound will be a stone’s throw from the old York stop’s location.

At both Bay and at Yonge, the carstops will be shifted to the farside of the intersection. Use of the curb lane space as a streetcar loading zone will considerably expand the space available to transit riders at these locations where today (except for Bay eastbound) the nearside stops are constrained by narrow sidewalks and subway entrances.

Through traffic will be allowed at Bay, but not at Yonge where all traffic must turn.

The area between York and Bay which is now an extended cab stand on both sides of the street, and part of it will remain for this purpose, but a good chunk in each direction is dedicated to a pick up zone. This will provide space for commercial vehicles loading goods, as well as for taxi drop offs. The net result of the change is a reduction in taxi stand spaces on this section of King, although they are more elsewhere.

Victoria to Jarvis

Church Street will be another of the locations where non-transit vehicles are forced to turn, and the carstops will be moved farside in both directions. This will have an effect on short turns and diversions nominally headed to “Church Street” because there will no longer be an eastbound carstop there for them to use.

The curb lane in the area between the St. Lawrence Hall and St. James Cathedral and Park is largely given over to pedestrian improvements. This will have a significant effect for trucks that now use this area as parking during the Saturday market hours.

At Jarvis, as at Bathurst, all incoming traffic will be forced to turn. This presents a potential problem for westbound streetcars during periods when Jarvis southbound become impassible and traffic wishing to turn west to south will have no place to go.

This article will be updated as further information about the pilot’s design becomes available.

21 thoughts on “King Street Pilot Design Unveiled (Updated Oct. 30, 2017)

  1. Cyclist will have a strange problem. Instead of using the right of the lane, they have to stay on the left. The right lanes will be occupied with right turn traffic and stopped vehicles. So, they have to hang on the left side to go straight. The tram lanes are dangerous as the tracks are there.

    There is no plan to make King Street more beautiful. There should be more planters and street art. The space has to look better before more pedestrians will want to spend time as oppose to walking through it. For the pilot to be successful, restaurants and cafes need to see increase business. By having the street look better, people will want to sit on the patios and watch time goes by. Parked cars and taxi stands are not very attractive to look at.

    Steve: The beautification won’t happen until next spring, assuming the pilot is still running by then.

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  2. If I had to say from the diagrams, I read them as indicating there are no left turns on _or_ off of any side streets in the pilot area. So not only can eastbound traffic not turn north on Brant, southbound traffic must turn west.

    Steve: I await a response from the city to clarify this. The problem is that the arrows showing traffic movements don’t match the proposed signage/bans.

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  3. The far side stops at University are a pain. The eastbound change moves the stop from a very easy subway connection to a very convoluted one through the office tower’s concourse. I wonder if the property manager of the building will appreciate hundreds more people per hour marching through there each day and night.

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  4. Since the Simcoe stops were removed, riders on eastbound cars have had to either get off at John, or wait until the streetcar crawls through traffic to University. (Last week, an operator took pity and opened the doors at Simcoe.) A farside stop will be worse, unless all that traffic vanishes.

    It would make more sense to remove the eastbound University stop, and reinstate eastbound Simcoe as a far-side stop. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the debrief, Steve. I’m hopeful that this will go a long way to resolving the corridor issues but the proof will be in the support for the pilot project. I see a lot of Toronto Planning in the design. But has there been any support for the pilot provided by the police and Toronto Traffic? For this to work there are a lot of intersections that will need new signal timing, and support for a policy of aggressive transit priority. The police will have to be on board to enforce turning restrictions, drop off and the taxi zones.

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  6. I really don’t see how converting King and Queen into one-ways wasn’t a more logical solution than this.

    Steve: One ways are a car-oriented “solution” that make access to transit much more difficult for people who must now walk several blocks to get to service going the “other” way. The idea is not to make life easier for motorists but to drive them away. What part of “war on the car” don’t you understand?

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  7. A hodge podge of solutions to competing problems with no one really coming up on top because it’s trying to be all things to all people. The transfer at University will be great for transit! I don’t expect much enforcement or too much benefit to the proposed schemes so I optimistically expect this pilot to fail.

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  8. At first I wondered if hook turns (left turns from the right lane) at Bathurst/King eastbound and Jarvis/King westbound would help avoid streetcars being caught behind backups of left turning cars…now I think it makes more sense to have “pedestrian” and “vehicle” phases for the traffic signals.

    I think the number of pedestrians on King is going to be the defining factor in all reporting…because they will affect how traffic moves, how people move, how transit moves, and whether businesses will benefit or not.

    Steve: Hook turn are a definite non-starter because of the road widths and the amount of traffic already using the north-south streets.

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  9. Re: being blocked by left turning cars at Bathurst and at Jarvis.

    I always thought this would be more of an issue at Bathurst. I can see drivers thinking that it is only a short block on Bathurst to get north to the start of Adelaide. The issue is that there may be little opposing traffic (just right turns) but there are still pedestrians in the north crosswalk. Maybe if it turns out that the lineup of cars is long enough, drivers will start to think twice about that about considering King>Adelaide as a corridor, but even if they do there will be an adjustment period right when the city is going to be judging the effectiveness of the pilot.

    Steve: The problem at Jarvis occurs in the afternoon (and sometimes on weekends) due to southbound traffic backed up on Jarvis.

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  10. Steve: One ways are a car-oriented “solution” that make access to transit much more difficult for people who must now walk several blocks to get to service going the “other” way. The idea is not to make life easier for motorists but to drive them away. What part of “war on the car” don’t you understand?

    If you take a 4 lane street like King and Queen, keep one lane for parking, one lane dedicated for transit, one lane for traffic a bike lane how exactly is that car-oriented? It ticks every single box:

    -unimpeded transit lane
    -bike-friendly (with this amount of space could theoretically create a two-way bike lane)
    -cars stay single file so no more crazy pass moves around streetcars

    So, again, how isn’t it the most logical solution?

    Steve: It misses ticking the big box about convenience of transit access.

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  11. Changing the TTC stop locations should – at least if/when the changes become permanent – cause the TTC to look carefully at their placement. Moving to a far-side west bound stop at Church will allow customers to catch cars short-turned westwards there but moving the eastbound stop should encourage them to add a stop on Church north of King for use by those thrown-off short-turn cars. Moving the Jarvis westbound stop to far-side puts that stop a fair distance from the main customer-generator (George Brown) – maybe a stop should be added at George? Similar thought needs to be given at other locations including Simcoe/University and at York. Clearly not something to do now but I hope ‘someone’ will look at the possibilities.

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  12. King and Queen are pretty close together, and while I’m able-bodied, maybe this one-way idea should be explored, especially if that means a RoW. But to begin to do that sort of ‘roadicalism’ in my view, we need and needed to have some other option in place eg. a Front St. transitway, route modelled on the DRL western leg of 1985, which I think is more pressing than what’s had some money/planning now, as maybe the Main/Danforth to Union RER/ST would be enough relief far sooner than that near-stubway bruited about now.

    And with the west end, since we’re sooooo behind in Caronto/Moronto, let’s think of taking a technique from Jarvis of reversibility. Could we set up a sub-regional/faster trip in from/to the Queensway on Front St. alignment via Liberty Village (which needs more stops) but do it on an alternating basis, with whatever vehicles used return to west via either King/Queen or both?

    Along with trying to get to doing the more-correct things vs. more mistakes, we also needed to have done things sooner, and it’s going to be longer time coming for whatever might get going.

    Steve: If you live south of King and face a walk to/from Queen, especially where you have to dodge around the rail corridor or an expressway ramp, it will not be a short walk, especially in bad weather. Even as a straight run, it will add to access time just when we are trying to make King itself more attractive.

    I am amazed at how often there is hand-wringing about accessibility, and yet making people walk further to reach transit service seems to be perfectly ok.

    In your case, it’s the gleam of a possible bike lane, to others it’s a chance at more road space. There are more transit riders than either of you.

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  13. Are we forgetting the streetcar tracks on Adelaide? If it’s a legit plan they could also add some on Richmond. That eliminates the inaccessibility argument.

    Steve: There are two problems. First off, these streets do not extend for the full length of the Queen/King pair. Second, these streets are intended primarily to support auto traffic as well as be the main cycling lanes across downtown. From the viewpoint of overall space consumed by streetcars, you would still have four streetcar lanes spread across the available 16 of King, Adelaide, Richmond and Queen, just simply in a different arrangement.

    One-way operations are not a solution.

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  14. One issue with the far side stops that I hope they bother to fix is that the stop announcement system will probably announce the following stop just as the streetcar arrives at one of the relocated far side stops. This happens with a bus stop on a route I use regularly that was relocated to the far side of the intersection several years ago and has still not been fixed.

    Steve: The lag time between stop changes on the street and in the announcement system can be quite trying.

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  15. The current pilot project for King doesn’t extend the full length of King and Queen either.

    Bike traffic would be augmented by dedicated lanes on King and Queen.

    Having 4 streetcar lanes, 4 dedicated bike lanes and a more fluid traffic situation sounds a lot better to me than creating traffic nightmares on Front, Adelaide, Richmond, Queen and all N/S cross streets which is what will almost undoubtedly occur once the King project is implemented. The inevitable delay to the Queen streetcar alone that’s going to result from this makes it more of a stealing from Peter to pay Paul scheme than anything else.

    Steve: Adding a shuffle to change between one and two way operation would add so much time to both Queen and King as to nullify any advantages.

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  16. Steve: The lag time between stop changes on the street and in the announcement system can be quite trying.

    I noticed that York Street has somehow wormed its way back into the announcement system as a westbound stop on King. Perhaps it was the collective will of passengers staring at the tantalizingly close sidewalk which they are they now forbidden from accessing with ease because someone who doesn’t use the route said so.

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  17. Steve said: “The lag time between stop changes on the street and in the announcement system can be quite trying.”

    Yes, it makes no sense to me that the stop announcement does not stay lit up until the vehicle pulls away from the stop. How often do you see people ‘waking up’ at a stop and saying ‘where are we?” I asked Chris Upfold about this a while ago and was told ‘that’s the way it is”. (Hardly a very helpful answer!). (On the reappearance of abandoned stop announcements: I heard an announcement for Victoria on the 504 (or 514) westbound the other day.)

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  18. Agree to disagree but at the very least I think the concept is worth study considering the complexity and amount of effort that’s gone into what they settled on piloting on King St.

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  19. Steve, have you heard whether signal priority will be improved, maintained or eliminated during the pilot?

    Steve: I think that is an ongoing issue as the City discovers how the “new” street behaves. Some locations would be difficult because they do not have detectors today for transit vehicles (the major arterials).

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  20. Would this experiment have made more sense after it had a decent number of the new cars on the route? What are the odds of this not working because the trip is faster but retaining the number of cars on the route means more trips per car, hence more arriving at the terminus and hence exceeding that capacity?

    Steve: The schedules will not be changed until mid-February. TTC hopes to have more Flexitys plus ALRVs on the route. Meanwhile, we make do with schedules as they are. Some problems that originate outside of the pilot zone (notably congestion in Parkdale) should not disrupt the line as much now it has so much “extra” running time. Conversely, we have not yet seen conditions later in the week when there is more traffic on the street. Don’t jump to conclusions too early.

    Also how well will this really be supported in terms of police at the intersections forcing turns, and what will be required to get that effect long term? Ideally should have first month with police on duty at the intersections with required turns, that is every one across the core. Also a massive parking enforcement blitz attached to it as well.

    Steve: John Tory has talked about a cadre of “Traffic Wardens” and I can’t think of a better place to put them than King Street. Also TTC staff should get Special Constable status to do basic traffic/parking management.

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