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Drivers adjust to changes on King Street, congestion concerns raised

Last Updated Nov 15, 2017 at 7:20 pm EST

Drivers continue to adjust to the changes, a day after a year-long pilot project that prioritizes streetcars on King Street went into effect.

All traffic on King Street between Jarvis and Bathurst streets is only allowed to travel a single block before being forced to turn right – no left turns and no through traffic is allowed. City-licensed taxis are exempt, but only between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. As for cyclists, there’s space for them in the curb lane, but there are no plans for a dedicated bike lane along King Street.

See a map of how the pilot project works

The TTC said more than 65,000 people use the King streetcar during the week, but the rocket slows down to a crawl due to traffic congestion. Some might even say it’s faster to get off and walk. The pilot project aims to keep that stretch of road virtually car-free, allowing streetcars to move unhindered.

On Monday, which was the first weekday commute since the project launched on Sunday, several drivers continued to drive through King, unaware of the changes.

Some TTC riders were also confused, as streetcar stops have been moved between Bathurst and Jarvis.

To ensure that people are aware of the new rules, Toronto police were out educating drivers on Sunday and making them aware of the changes.

CityNews spoke to both drivers and streetcar riders on King Street and opinions are clearly divided.

One driver said the new rules are an inconvenience to drivers who frequent the area.

“It will probably make it a little more difficult for people like us that drive on this street all the time, so that’s not the most convenient thing,” she said.

On the other hand, those who use the streetcars are a little more enthused about the changes and what they could mean for their weekly commute.

Streetcar rider Chris Drew said he’s excited the city is taking steps to address the frustrating gridlock on the street.

“We have to try something right? The current situation is failing so let’s try something and see how this works, and it’s all about moving a lot of people,” he said.

However while it may get streetcars moving, the ripple effect of diverting traffic away from King Street cannot be ignored. All those vehicles have to go somewhere, raising concerns that neighbouring streets will see increased traffic, causing backups and delays.

Small business owner Elena Lepori doesn’t see the logic behind the new rules and said they’ll cause serious problems for those who live and work on King Street.

“It would make me do a lot of detours. I don’t think that’s very practical. De-congesting a street by congesting another one…I don’t understand,” she said.

However, Const. Clint Stibbe said police will be keeping a close eye on the situation in the area and analyzing the changes in traffic patterns.

“We will be monitoring the changes in the environment in the sense that individuals that are now backing up side streets … or whatever the case may be. The officers are going to make adjustments depending on what they’re seeing, and they’re going to advise us on anything they’ve identified that may be an ongoing problem,” he said.

Police expect that it will take some time for drivers to get used to the changes and are allowing for a week-long grace period before cracking down on violators.

During the first week of implementation, drivers will not be penalized, but instead they’ll be given warnings and provided with pamphlets explaining the new rules.

Thereafter, rule breakers could face a $110 fine and two demerit points, based on the officer’s discretion.