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City council to review King Street congestion, streetcar lanes

TORONTO, Ont. – Toronto city council wants to know what has to be done to stop the bunching up of streetcars during morning rush hour on the highly congested King Street.

Council says one possible solution to keep traffic moving along King is to extend the existing reserved streetcar lanes along the entire stretch of the street.

Councillor Denzil Minnan Wong who is also chair of the public works and infrastructure committee said that even though there are already lanes dedicated to streetcars during rush hour now, it seems to be a free-for-all and many are unaware of the rules.

“There are portions of King Street where streetcars aren’t supposed to be in the middle lane. Also, you’ll find there are no left turns on many of the streets in the downtown core. But what you also find is that nobody follows those rules,” he explained.

TTC Chair Karen Stintz admits enforcement and awareness are some of the main issues.

“The police have talked about cameras and whether they can be utilized as well to help us enforce our bylaws,” she said.

Part of the answer may involve handing out more tickets to drivers who do not obey the rules.

There is also some discussion about banning cars completely during rush hours. Stintz does not support that, saying she wants to get a report from staff first, to be completed by June 2014.

“I think there are ways that we can enforce our existing bylaws better before we take the step of closing the street to cars,” she said.

The staff will determine whether to extend the reserved lanes to the central part of king between Jarvis and Spadina. They will also look at how to better enforce the existing bylaws and other options to improve the entire grid, as any changes made to King will impact Queen Street and Front Street.

And despite the roll-out of new streetcars over the next six years, Stintz said the fleet will not do any good if it is stuck in traffic.

“There’s a recognition that we’ve invested $1.2-billion in streetcars and we want to make sure we make the most of that investment,” she said.

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