Promising signs from the King Street Pilot

Posted on: January 19th, 2018

After 2 of 12 planned months in operation, the King Street Pilot is showing significant positive effects for riders of the 504 King streetcar, who make up a very large proportion of the users of King Street, both during and outside peak. It is also showing effects, proportionately smaller, on car drivers.

What do we know so far? (Torontoist’s Steve Munro)

  • Streetcar travel times across downtown are faster than before the pilot, although the averages reported by the City are smaller than improvements cited by riders who praise the faster service.
  • Demand on King is up as riders left behind by full streetcars can attest, but the TTC has published only one numerical before and after comparison.
  • Route capacity is limited by the number of available TTC vehicles, although larger new cars appear one by one as they arrive from Bombardier. However, the capacity actually operated is still below the level of early 2017.
  • Traffic and transit speeds on adjacent roads, notably on Queen, have not been affected much by the pilot itself, although they are still subject to the effect of construction projects.
  • Enforcement of the new traffic regulations remains spotty, after an initial blitz, and problems remain at key intersections where cross-street traffic can block King thwarting the benefits of the pilot.
  • Some pedestrian scale improvements such curb lane expansions of the sidewalk will not occur until better weather.

We also know from City traffic counts that streetcar riders make up the majority of the people moving along the full length of King Street, commonly cited as 65,000+ (TTC statistics from before the 514 was introduced), or 72,000+ (Ben Spurr, Toronto Star), as compared to approximately 20,000 cars containing on average 1.08 people.

There have been calls in the media by some business owners to make significant reductions to the pilot’s scope, due to unverified claims of significant drops in business. It is entirely possible for street changes to impact retail business, both positively and negatively. The City of Toronto is gathering credit card data from global payments operator Moneris to check impacts both within the pilot area and in comparable unchanged areas, as part of their pilot evaluation process. This evidence will be very helpful to evaluate the improved transit performance and the overall King Street neighbourhood impacts.

One commonly voiced complaint in media is a perceived lack of people. Without an official cordon count, it is very difficult to quantify this, but some have suggested other significant differences which would be a factor:

Weather (Measured high temperatures below zero degrees)

  • Dec 2016 to 18 Jan 2017: 14 days below 0 and 0 days below -10
  • Dec 2017 to 18 Jan 2018: 29 days below 0 and 7 days below -10

Theatre Activity:

  • Royal Alexandria Theatre dark twice as many November-December days as in 2016
  • 2016’s soon-to-be Broadway hit Come From Away, contrasted with 2017’s family production of The Lorax

Another commonly-cited but inaccurate concern is a lack of parking. Approximately 7,800 spaces exist within a few hundred metres of King Street, but only 180 spaces (2.3%) were removed. For comparison, the average parking space at Yorkdale Mall is about 100 metres from its nearest entrance.

CodeRedTO strongly supports improved transit in principle, and supports maintaining the integrity of the King Street Pilot such that a full year of conditions can be assessed. Road construction, TIFF, summer storms, and more are still to be evaluated. Minor adjustments to the pilot area, as the City has already completed in multiple instances, are a reasonable approach to ensuring that the overall goal of dependable and higher-performing transit 24/7 is retained.

Tell your City Councillor your opinion on making public transit faster and more reliable by calling 311, or follow these links to find contact information for your councillor and the Mayor.

Familiar Challenges Face New York City’s Subway

Posted on: December 31st, 2017

Many of the significant and costly challenges facing the MTA, and its new President Andy Byford, will ring familiar to those following Toronto’s transit development and roadblocks:

  1. Stations built for smaller volumes of people
  2. Ancient and failing signaling systems
  3. Ancient and failing vehicles needing replacement
  4. Transition to a new fare collection system
  5. Trying to increase funding and reduce administrative costs
  6. Convincing its workforce to accept role modernization and revolution


The GTHA’s Last Kilometre Problem

Posted on: December 18th, 2017

For reasons that are slightly mysterious, there is talk of big changes to transit governance in Ontario. One idea floating about is to upload all transit systems to the province because there are 11 separate transit systems in the GTHA. Which is supposed to sound like chaos, or something.

There have been some good critiques of this proposal: I recommend reading Cherise Burda and Jennifer Keesmaat on this.

But one big problem with this governance talk is that regional cooperation and coordination are not the biggest transit problems in the GTHA.

I’m in favour of better regional transit. Where it isn’t entirely absent, what we have is, in many areas, pretty terrible, uneven, and unresponsive. I would like to see service expanded and improved.

But the biggest transit problem we have in the GTHA is inadequate local transit.

Read more from CodeRedTO advisor Tricia Wood, in Torontoist

King Street Pilot Initial Results

Posted on: December 4th, 2017

Strong return on investment for the #KingStreetPilot according to data analyzed by the University of Toronto. Thousands are saving time daily.

“The King St. pilot project has caused dramatic improvements in travel times and reliability on the TTC’s busiest streetcar route, according to data analyzed by University of Toronto researchers.

The statistics show that during the evening rush hour period of 4 to 7 p.m., the mean travel time for westbound streetcars in the pilot area has been cut by 24 per cent, to 17.3 minutes, from 22.8 minutes before the pilot began. The mean travel time for eastbound streetcars has been reduced by 20 per cent, to 16.4 minutes from 20.6 minutes.

The figures suggest a remarkable return on investment in terms of transit service for a project that cost just $1.5 million to implement.”

King St. pilot project has slashed streetcar travel times, statistics show (Toronto Star)

Upcoming public meetings

Posted on: September 26th, 2017

For those interested in SmartTrack and/or Regional Express Rail (RER) development in Toronto and the GTA, early October has several public meetings that may be of interest to you.

Proposed new stations for GO and SmartTrack: (source report PDF)

Metrolinx Lakeshore East Expansion in Toronto-Danforth

(Hosted by Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns)
Wednesday October 4th, 7pm to 8.30pm
Ralph Thornton Centre, 765 Queen St. East

(Hosted by the City of Toronto and Metrolinx)

Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Drive
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, Presentation begins at 7:00 pm

(Hosted by the City of Toronto and Metrolinx)
Riverdale Collegiate Institute, 1094 Gerrard Street East
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, Presentation begins at 7:00 pm

(Hosted by the City of Toronto and Metrolinx)
Bloor Street Collegiate Institute, 1141 Bloor Street West
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, Presentation begins at 7:00 pm

GO Transit Electrification and Impacts to Regional Transportation

Posted on: August 17th, 2017

Guest post by CodeRedTO volunteer Thomas Dybowski

With a goal of improving regional transportation in Ontario, Metrolinx has introduced the GO Transit Electrification project which focuses on upgrading the GO rail system throughout the entire Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). The electrification process consists of transitioning away from presently diesel-powered GO trains towards the use of direct electrical supply as a new power source.

Some of the benefits offered by the electrification process include a rail system which has improved speed while also offering services in a wait time of 15 minutes or less. This includes fewer interruptions in addition to travel being enabled both ways throughout the entire day. In addition to the improvements, a potential development of 12 new stations may take place across the region, including 8 new locations in Toronto which would serve towards improving commuter access and convenience. These positive attributes may also serve as a way of mitigating some of the effects of congestion in cities by offering alternative travel choices. Additionally, electrification directly benefits the city’s environment and health through improvements towards air quality as a result of lower emissions being produced.

Proposed electrification of corridors in the GO rail network [Source]

Additionally, on June 15 the Ontario Government has introduced another option, of using hydrogen as a potential fuel source, describing it as a potential alternative based on its popular use in other metropolitan areas of the world. Hydrogen is explained as a safe and clean alternative which serves as an improvement from current practices towards both people’s and the environment’s health. With a goal of selecting the best course of action when improving the GO rail system, consideration for the use of hydrogen as a potential source will continue during the electrification project. Studies will continue to explore the source and its benefits in the later months of 2017.

Currently, the project is in the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) which identifies the impact different aspects of developing the project may have through its development, while also focusing on implementing technical approaches to provide solutions towards issues. A series of 28 public meetings have already been held in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and are entering into their third round of discussions. This involves two phases already taking place during 2016 which focused on the different physical requirements associated with implementing the changes and the influence these changes may have on the local environment. Presently, consultations are in their third phase of the TPAP, which basis a review of all the information already heard from the public as well as more feedback with the purpose of generating an Environmental Project Review (EPR) which will then undergo public review.

To accommodate the Go Transit Expansion, additional implementation of infrastructure such as barriers would be used to shield areas which are visually impacted by the project, while also providing greater pedestrian safety from the rail system in places such as overhead crossings. Additionally, the project involves replacing bridges which are unfit for the new infrastructure, which would undergo construction to accommodate the necessary height clearance and barrier designs.

Some frequent issues discussed by the public involve the concern over the requirement of clearing a 7-meter distance of vegetation from the rail corridor, which intends to prevent any hazards towards the rail system. This includes problems which arise from the required removal of trees from resident’s private properties. Additionally, a frequent point of discussion involves the noise and vibration coming from the electrified trains, including issues with the train’s impact on people’s livability; especially in areas where corridors pass residential areas. One possible strategy proposed involves the use of 5-meter tall walls as shields to prevent noise disruption coming from the trains.

The project’s next steps involve focusing on completing the study by the end of 2017, which includes a public review from October to November and a review by the Minister until December. The goal of the project is to complete the construction process by 2025, whereby then service would become publicly available. The GO Transit Expansion will transform how rail systems operate in Ontario, with electrification working towards creating an improved transportation system for the years to come.

Thomas Dybowski is a student at the University of Toronto in the Urban Geography and City Studies program.


New Pembina Institute report on success factors for rapid transit projects

Posted on: March 15th, 2017

CodeRedTO partner Pembina Institute has released an important new report detailing some of the major success factors on current Ontario rapid transit projects, and how they can be applied in future.

Most opponents to new light rail projects in Ontario aren’t opposed to rapid transit in general, but actually take issue with the process and how decisions are made.  Best practices like engaging early, being transparent, and working closely with developers and landowners can go a long way to making a project more likely to succeed.

What’s key is that communities can learn from one another as we quickly implement new rapid transit.

Says Pembina:

The current roll-out of rapid transit infrastructure in Ontario is one of the biggest infrastructure builds in the province’s history, with over $30 billion in investment from the Province of Ontario and major inputs from the federal and municipal governments. With such significant investments at stake, it’s important to get the process right.

In this report, we examine engagement and planning processes around ongoing rapid transit projects in four Ontario communities to better understand the challenges and success factors associated with these efforts.

The full report, Getting on Board, can be viewed here:

Who’s Advocating for Improved Transit Across Ontario?

Posted on: February 15th, 2017

CodeRedTO was formed to advocate for better transit, for more residents, sooner. While our focus has always been the City of Toronto, we have partnered for several years with Move The GTHA, a collective of over two dozen major groups working toward better funding, better decision making, and better accountability on transit and transportation across the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area.

Better transit options and service are needed in all communities of course. CodeRedTO also partners with some organizations in cities outside the GTHA, and supports any organization putting better transit ahead of partisan or technology ideology.

Here is a partial list of groups we know of. If we missed you, email to be added!

Brampton: Fight Gridlock

Hamilton: Hamilton LRT

Waterloo Region: Tri-TAG

London: Shift Happens

Ottawa: Healthy Transportation Coalition

Sudbury: Friends of Sudbury Transit

Toronto: TTC Riders


#TOcore and Future Changes in Toronto’s Transit

Posted on: October 4th, 2016

Guest post by CodeRedTO volunterer Thomas Dybowski

With Toronto’s downtown core experiencing persistent growth, it is important to address outstanding issues in preparing the city for future growth. TOcore strategy is a City of Toronto plan created to address such issues by introducing seven areas of focus to improve the current function of the city. Meetings are held regularly by the City of Toronto, where stakeholders from local organizations and BIA’s provide feedback in improving the planning process. Opinions are raised over a wide array of topics, ranging from sustainable development, to mixed use development; with a common goal of creating a more welcoming and livable city in the future.

Current changes in Toronto’s downtown core, including adjustments in mobility, transit and infrastructure development will serve as a major influence on how the city will function in the future. One of TOcore’s primary strategies is creating an accessible and mobile downtown core, with a focus directed towards surface transit such as LRT’s (Light Rail Transit). Accommodations are also made for alternative modes of transportation through development of bike lanes, parking, and bike sharing programs. This program would provide relief to highly congested streets such as King Street, which will be undergoing redevelopment starting 2017.


King Street is one of few streets in Toronto which is seen as having insufficient transportation, through limited methods of mobility and lacking transportation services containing major delays. Changes are being implemented in terms of improving services, with busses being available more frequently, alongside increased parking restrictions, where liming street parking to allow greater flow of traffic. These are some of the changes presently being worked on, with further studies taking place in analyzing the regulation of traffic and how these changes may influence the area.

The plan also focuses on mixed use development, where areas with low and medium density are focused on becoming more walkable and accessible; with close access to local stores, services, and amenities. Further improvements in transportation would also lead towards greater accessibility towards the provision of services.


High density areas such as the downtown financial district are directed on providing walkable distances to Union Station and the PATH network. Additionally, creating more business centers in other parts of the city would provide easier mobility and accessibility to jobs. This also prevents further clustering of particular land use types in specific parts of the city and provides relief towards congestion by spreading development through different uses.

The goal of the TOcore strategy is to be fully implemented by 2041. Consultations will continue to take place into the future with updates on TOcore’s progress, as well as feedback from local residents and organizations. Plans and studies will progress, with different divisions of the City of Toronto working alongside organizations and residents, with a common goal of making Toronto a healthier, better transit oriented and more accessible city.

Thomas Dybowski is a student at the University of Toronto in the Urban Geography and City Studies program.

Move The GTHA Report: significant progress, but large funding gaps remain

Posted on: August 17th, 2016


This week Move The GTHA, a regional transit advocacy coalition co-founded by CodeRedTO, released a new progress report on The Big Move, the provincial transportation plan. “Are We There Yet?” is a discussion of the state of transit investment in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area, and the accompanying backgrounder covers all sources and details.

Recent coverage:

Originally announced in 2008, with a 25-year project timeline, it is appropriate to review progress and assess where the province and all partners need to improve.


It is important to recognize that significant progress has been made: nearly half the planned rapid transit and regional transit improvement kilometres have been funded or completed. But key projects remain unfunded, and the regional transit network will not function efficiently and effectively with only the current projects in construction – more is needed to catch us up after decades of stagnation and political cancellations.



In addition to the above-noted capital (construction) funding gap which remains, the report also notes the highly-problematic lack of operations funding: there are currently zero new dollars allocated or even identified for operations and maintenance of the extensive regional rapid transit network, within any of the GTHA transit agencies or the provincial government. As public transit is a service, not a profit centre, municipalities may be on the hook for increased spending without any increased support.

By comparison, even the new York University extension to the TTC Line 1 subway, opening in late 2017, will require an additional $30 million in annual funding for operations – more than a 1% property tax increase on its own. Each new line will have subsidy requirements to be run effectively and not be simply dusty tracks seldom used.

Our report lists several specific requirements for the government:

  • Capital funding strategy and revenue sources to complete the plan
  • Operations funding strategy and revenue sources
  • A transit summit among all levels of government, regional transit agencies, and stakeholders, to ensure alignment in development, funding, and support

The report also lists requirements for the public:

  • Communicate with your elected representatives at all levels to share your support for properly-planned, properly-funded rapid transit across the region
  • Participate in the Metrolinx Big Move Review to share your feedback on projects
  • Share your ideas and information with neighbours in your community and encourage everyone to speak up about the importance of investment

Read the full report and detailed backgrounder


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CALL your City Councillor, and tell them that you want rational, affordable, and rapid transit in Toronto to benefit everyone, not just one small section of the city. Rapid transit to Malvern, Morningside, Jane & Finch are achievable if we learn from successful transit networks around the world.

TELL your friends and family that subways are amazing - they really are! - but with limited funding we have to make rational decisions about whether to support more residents or leave people waiting for crowded buses for decades longer.

Did you know: The bus routes on Finch have over 85% of the ridership of the (much shorter) Sheppard Subway, and the bus routes on Eglinton already have over 140%! The lengths differ but the need is common in many areas of the city. We are decades behind and need better transit options for our residents now, not just small extensions that use up all the budget.

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