'Everyone is King': Toronto launches design competition for public spaces on King Street
Mayor John Tory and Councillor Michael Thompson need your help boosting local businesses and sidewalk traffic during the King Street pilot project.
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King St. is one of the most vibrant corridors in Toronto.
It is home to the heart of our financial district, many of our popular theatres and cultural destinations, as well as a diversity of businesses, popular restaurants and bars.
It’s also the busiest surface transit route in North America, meaning that more than 65,000 people travel on its streetcar routes every day.
When the King Street Pilot project began last fall, it was designed to make the street work better for everyone. Streetcars were given priority along King St. from Bathurst St. to Jarvis St., ensuring they were not slowed down by mixed traffic so commuters could enjoy faster, more reliable service.
Parallel corridors of Adelaide, Richmond, Front and Queen Sts. were available to absorb car traffic, and the pilot was designed to make sure that all local access was maintained for drivers, cabs and deliveries.
But while the pilot was an undeniably necessary step to try to introduce better transit on a busy route, we have been hearing from some local businesses with concerns that these changes could be impacting their bottom line.
The city is collecting data on sidewalk traffic, point of sale transactions and other metrics, but we must also do more to make sure everyone knows King St. is open for business.
While people are aware the streetcar travel times and reliability have improved, there is confusion about access for cars, taxis and those looking to park in the area.
To be clear: King St. remains accessible to those driving to local destinations. There is no ban on cars.
Taxis are able to travel straight through at all intersections daily from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and new taxi stands with additional spaces have been added along King St. and some nearby streets.
Although on-street parking has been removed on King St., local access to all parking garages, condominiums and businesses is maintained and there is lots of parking available on nearby side streets and in the many parking garages and lots in the area.
The City of Toronto and the Toronto Parking Authority have also introduced a new $5 discount on parking in the surrounding area using the Green P app, using the promo code GCTG4A5.
To accommodate drop-offs and deliveries, accessible loading zones have been added on most blocks along King St., which also remains accessible for passenger pickups and drop offs.
Based on input received from businesses along King St., the city has already made some changes to the pilot, adding additional commercial loading zones between Yonge and Victoria Sts. and adjusting signal timing as we receive data on new traffic patterns.
But as we adjust to this new transit-first pilot, we want to do more to draw people to King St. Cities around the world have taken steps to animate parts of their city where new street designs have been introduced, making sure economic prosperity is not affected by improved mobility.
On Tuesday, the city is launching a design-build competition for the public spaces along King St.
Called “Everyone is King,” this competition seeks submissions from local businesses and BIAs, design professionals, students, community groups and other interested members of the public.
Launching this spring, their designs will create Temporary Public Space Installations and Destination Parklets, and offers an opportunity for everyone to contribute to the rethinking and success of King St. The call for entries opens Tuesday and further information can be found on the City of Toronto’s website.
To animate these spaces in the winter months, the city will also introduce warming stations, ice sculptures, fire performers and art installations in the short term, along with a program to promote local quick and full-service restaurants in and around the King Street Pilot called “Eats on King,” which will run Feb. 19 to March 29.
Better transit options are good for our city, from our competitiveness and productivity to our quality of life, but we are committed to supporting our local businesses as well.
And so we encourage all those who support the King Street Pilot to visit a King St. restaurant or business, check out the winter installations and help us make the design competition something that will draw even more visitors to King St. from far and wide.
Correction– January 9, 2018: The photo caption was edited from a previous version that misstated the route number of the TTC streetcar.
John Tory is mayor of Toronto. Michael Thompson is the city councillor for Ward 37 Scarborough Centre and the chair of the City’s economic development committee.