Half of Torontonians support King St. pilot, poll finds
Awareness of the effort to improve streetcar service is high, and only one-quarter of residents disapprove.
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Most Torontonians are aware of the King St. pilot project, and half of them approve of the effort to improve streetcar service on the downtown street, according to a new poll.
A Forum Research poll conducted Nov. 21 and 22 found that 73 per cent of respondents were familiar with the pilot project, which has given priority to streetcar traffic on King by compelling drivers to turn off the street at most major intersections.
Fifty per cent of people approved of the project at least somewhat, with one-third saying they strongly approved. The portion of people who favoured the idea was double the roughly one-quarter of respondents who either somewhat or strongly disapproved of the idea. Fifteen per cent said they were strongly opposed.
Another fifth said they had no strong feelings either way, and one in 10 didn’t know.
The $1.5-million project was installed Nov. 12 on the 2.6-kilometre section of King that stretches from Bathurst St. to Jarvis St., and the city and TTC launched an aggressive communications effort to alert the public of changes that would affect drivers and transit users. According to Forum president Lorne Bozinoff, the poll results suggest “the city has done an excellent job of getting the word out.”
Approval appeared to be highest among people who were most likely to benefit from improved streetcar performance on King. Close to two-thirds of people who regularly take public transit to school or work favoured the project, while among drivers the approval rating was only 37 per cent.
Support was higher among people living in the old city of Toronto, which encompasses the pilot area. But even in the suburbs more people said they supported the project than opposed it. Just over four in 10 respondents in each of Scarborough, North York, and Etobicoke backed the pilot.
An analysis conducted by University of Toronto researchers and first published in the Star on Monday found that the pilot has succeeded in improving travel times on King. During the evening rush period between 4 and 7 p.m., the mean travel time for westbound streetcars in the area dropped by 24 per cent in the first two weeks of the project, to 17.3 minutes from 22.8 minutes. For eastbound streetcars, the mean travel time fell 20 per cent.
The TTC also believes ridership on King has increased now that the service is faster, which is exacerbating crowding on what was already the city’s busiest surface route. At least 65,000 people ride the King streetcar every weekday.
The Forum poll seems to confirm that passengers are migrating to King. One-third of transit users surveyed reported they would use King more often as a result of the pilot. Half of drivers said they would use the street less.
The poll also asked respondents their opinion of Metrolinx, the arms-length provincial agency in charge of transportation planning in the GTHA. One-third of those asked said they trusted the agency to make evidence-based transit decisions. One-quarter said they didn’t trust the agency, while 18 per cent said they didn’t know.
The agency has come under fire after the Star revealed that the ministry of transportation interfered in its planning process in order to secure approval of a new GO Transit station in the riding represented by Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca.
Bozinoff noted more people found Metrolinx trustworthy than did not, but “the proportions are narrow enough that they should be of some concern to the organization.”
Forum conducted the poll using an interactive voice response telephone survey of 843 randomly selected Toronto voters. In some cases the data has been statistically weighted by age, region and other variables.
Results are considered accurate by plus or minus 3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Subsample results are considered less accurate.