January 22, 2018 7:53 am
Updated: January 22, 2018 9:49 pm

King Street pilot project: Struggling businesses launch social media campaign

WATCH ABOVE: Downtown Toronto business owners are stepping up their campaign against restrictions for vehicles as a part of the King Street transit pilot project. But those same owners also got some push back against their campaign. Kamil Karamali reports.

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Some local businesses on King Street in downtown Toronto are taking part in a social media campaign to express their disappointment and anger over a pilot project prioritizing public transit which they say has affected their bottom line.

Al Carbone, owner of the Kit Kat Italian Bar and Grill, placed a large ice sculpture of a hand showing the middle finger outside his restaurant earlier this month.

“The time savings are paltry compared to the loss of parking revenues for the city, the increased congestion on neighbouring and parallel streets, and the loss of revenues for our establishments,” Carbone said in a media release. “Is all this worth hurting the quality of life of our neighbourhood?”

READ MORE: Toronto restaurant owner’s ice sculpture gives King Street pilot project middle finger

The social media campaign will encourage people to use the hashtag #ReverseKingCarBan to protest the pilot project.

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While recently released results for the second month of the city’s controversial experiment show increases in streetcar ridership and improved travel times within the area between Bathurst and Jarvis streets, business owners said they’ve taken a huge hit financially.

“We lose 50 per cent a day. We can’t afford to lose every day,” Carbone told reporters during a press conference on King Street Monday morning. “They want to do a pilot project for a year, I’ll do a campaign for a year.”

The pilot project – which was launched in November and will run for a year – aims to give priority to streetcars along what is the busiest surface transit route in the city and one that has been plagued by slow travel speeds and overcrowding.

VIDEO: King Street is still open for business

Vehicles are no longer allowed to drive straight through between Bathurst and Jarvis streets. Meanwhile, left-hand turns are also banned on that stretch of King Street.

Motorists are largely permitted to drive only one block before having to turn right, and there is no on-street parking in the pilot area. Parking is permitted on adjacent streets and public parking lots are still available.

However, the pilot project has drawn criticism from businesses in the area who say their revenues have dropped significantly as patrons have no place to park.

READ MORE: King Street pilot project: new programs to be launched to help struggling businesses

To give businesses a boost, Mayor John Tory announced a promotional event for the area’s restaurants and a write-in contest for suggestions on how to use the public space to the side of the street to “animate” the test area. Among the ways to increase activity in the area, officials proposed putting in art installations and bringing in street performers.

“”What we’re doing at the moment is concentrating all of our efforts on what I’d like to work with them on, which is getting customers back to their premises by saying King Street is open, which it is, you can still get here,” Tory told Global News.

The City of Toronto also announced the parking authority has opened up 90 new spaces and offered two hours of free parking in Green P street parking spots and parking lots on side streets around the test zone. They’re also promising to launch an advertising campaign to let people know King Street is still open for business.

VIDEO: Research deems King Street transit pilot project a success

—With a file from Mark Carcasole and Nick Westoll

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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