Toronto chief city planner envisions King Street without cars

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WATCH ABOVE: Toronto’s chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat suggests removing cars along King Street through the downtown core would help transit, cycling and pedestrian traffic thrive – Jun 21, 2016

The possibility of lanes dedicated to transit and other vehicles being restricted along King Street could be in the city’s future.

Chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat has been pushing the idea as something that would provide a number of alternatives to driving in the downtown core.

“This is a moment to rethink how King Street functions as a corridor for moving people,” Keesmaat said. “A critical part of that is prioritizing transit.”

READ MORE: Toronto sees first new streetcar route in 16 years

The 504 King is the busiest streetcar route in the city and currently carries an average 65,000 riders every weekday.

Residents in Liberty Village to the west have long complained about being packed in like sardines while waiting for traffic. The number of people living and working along the corridor is only expected to grow in the near future.

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“On one hand we’ve added a tremendous amount of growth in the downtown core and on the other hand we know there’s still more to come.” Keesmaat said. “We’re really on the cusp of a significant transformation.”

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Not only would transit service become a priority, so too would bikes and pedestrians. Wider sidewalks with more retail and public spaces are all a part of the vision.

“When you shift the infrastructure, people start to make different choices in terms of how they move around,” Keesmaat said.

During a recent event hosted by the city to discuss the future of King Street, TTC CEO Andy Byford suggested it’s now time to try and find new solutions.

“We can keep adding streetcars on the route, we can keep putting buses on, we can tell people not to park,” Byford said. “But until we do something radical, it will still be suboptimal, and it will still not be satisfactory.”

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Swanston Street in Melbourne, Australia provided Keesmaat with inspiration while visiting a few years ago.

“It really blew my mind to see people moving in and out of a transit priority corridor with a tremendous amount of ease,” she said.

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An online and social media campaign using the hashtag #RethinkKing has started with plans for public meetings and community consultations this fall.

There’s a chance a pilot project could be launched on King Street in the summer of 2017.

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