The King Street pilot project is saving thousands of commuters precious minutes, according to data analyzed by the University of Toronto’ s Spatial Analysis of Urban Systems department.
The average travel time on the westbound streetcar route between Jarvis and Bathurst streets dropped to 17.3 minutes compared to 22.8 minutes before the pilot project began. Travelling eastbound on that route was 4.2 minutes faster, on average.
“The good news is, and it’s early and I’m not proclaiming any victories, but these numbers coming out of U of T are completely objective in this that it’s making a big difference in moving the 65,000 people who do use the King streetcars,” Mayor John Tory said at a media event this morning.
The question remains how much of an impact it’s having on other routes.
The pilot project was launched two weeks ago and will run for a year. It aims to give priority to streetcars along what is the busiest surface transit route in the city.
Vehicles are no longer allowed to drive straight through between Bathurst and Jarvis streets and left-hand turns are also banned on the stretch of King Street. Drivers typically have to turn right after only one block, or face hefty fines from police.
The idea it to give priority to the estimated 65,000 people who travel on the King streetcar everyday, versus the 20,000 cars.
Since the project launched, motorists have been complaining about increased travel times on Queen, Adelaide and Richmond streets — routes that run parallel to King.
“Traffic will be diverted from King Street, because there’s no longer any traffic allowed through that portion of the road,” explains Dr. Michael Widener, assistant professor of geography and planning at the University of Toronto.
“It’s hard to say how much of that will be diverted to streets like Richmond and Adelaide until we’ve had a chance to collect more data, but you’ll also see the positive effect of more people losing the car and taking transit instead.”
The City of Toronto is expected to release travel time and traffic volume data on parallel routes later this week. Prior to the pilot, City of Toronto numbers indicate the average westbound travel time between Jarvis and Bathurst on Queen and Richmond streets were 15 and 14 minutes respectively.