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The city is considering a number of options for a King Street pilot project, including making it solely a transit, pedestrian and cyclist zone in the downtown core, Toronto’s chief planner told a conference Wednesday.
At a Green Cities conference Wednesday morning, Jennifer Keesmaat,announced the launch of a website that will look at a range of pilot options for King Street along the six- kilometer corridor from Dufferin Street in the west to River Street in the east.
“We want to make sure that the areas of the city that we are directing growth to in fact have excellent transit service and the King Street corridor can be a big win,” she said.
The idea of King Street going car-free is just one possibility floating around. Keesmaat won’t confirm what the options are yet but says the city will propose them at a public meeting Feb. 13.
“There are a series of options that we will be bringing forward to the public looking at how we can essentially get cars out of the way,” Keesmaat said. “We’ll get the public’s response and then we’ll try it so we can see how it works in practice.”
Sarah Thomson, with the Toronto Transit Alliance, supports the idea of pedestrian, cyclist and transit-only King Street but says the pilot project is necessary to test whether it can work.
“Because King Street is so congested, if we can get just transit and allow pedestrians and bikes on the street, we may end up diverting a lot of that pedestrian and cycle traffic to King Street rather than other streets that have traffic and cars on them,” Thomson said. “If it doesn’t work we’ll go back to the drawing board.”
Keesmaat says an estimated 65,000 streetcar riders and about 20,000 vehicles use King Street on a typical weekday. The options being considered for the pilot study are all ways to “essentially get cars out of the way.”
“The big idea here is that focusing on walking and cycling is in fact the most important thing we can do to become a green city,” she said.
For downtown resident Hamish Wilson, the changes possibly coming to King Street are not enough.
“We need new corridors and we need to build subways in the right places. King Street is a little narrow to actually make it into just a straight right-of-way quite honestly.”