The problems with King Street are not due to its bus service, and blocking a transit-only lane is not going to help.
By Ryan McGreal
Published June 25, 2013
A group of property and business owners on King Street has submitted a petition [PDF] to the City opposing the planned Bus-Only lane on King. The petition, which has 23 signatures, was started by Konstantine Takis and states in part, "we are in complete opposition of application of this Bus Lane".
It details concerns about: curbside parking moved to the south side of King west of Bay Street; pedestrian danger from high-speed buses; noise, and particularly honking when buses encounter someone parked in the bus-only lane; opposition to additional bus stops due to "loitering and trouble"; access for loading; dust raised by buses "speeding by our stores"; and the unpleasant pedestrian experience on a "highway style road".
The petition predicts that property values along the line will go down and that the owners should receive a property tax discount. It also requests a speed limit reduction to 40 km/h, speed bumps on each block, midblock crosswalks with button activation, and restricting the bus-only lane to the hours of 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM.
The signatories to this petition raise some legitimate concerns about the current design and function of King Street as a high speed, multi-lane thoroughfare for through traffic, and their call for lower speed limits and more pedestrian crossings is welcome.
They are clearly feeling very frustrated with the experience of trying to run a business next to a highway. However, the problems with King Street are not due to its bus service, and blocking a transit-only lane is not going to help.
In fact, improved rapid transit service the City is launching - and especially the light rail transit (LRT) line that is planned for this route - will only help to make it easier for people to get to and from downtown without needing to take a car. Faster, more frequent transit will benefit, not hurt, these businesses.
In a healthy dense urban neighbourhood, most people do not use cars to get to stores - they walk, cycle and take transit. Business owners should welcome public investments that help shift people's travel decisions.
However, business owners everywhere are notoriously skeptical about initiatives to improve walking, cycling and transit access, despite the fact that it is proven, in city after city, to be beneficial for their businesses.
The arguments this petition marshals against the bus only lane seem to be more fear-based than evidence-based.
Fear of change is understandable, but the best solution is for the City to engage with these business owners to address their concerns without abandoning what promises to be a very positive public investment in the viability of the neighbourhood.
Part of the petition reads:
For over 30 (or more) years we have adjusted to our surrounding to suit our present set up, now we are expected to evolve in a way which doesn't suit our needs anymore.
This indicates a survivorship bias on the part of the signatories: they have managed to survive the hostile environment on King Street, but their perspective excludes the many, many restaurants, stores, clubs and other facilities that failed.
The worst thing we could do with King Street is to maintain the status quo design, which caters to fast, high-volume automobile through traffic at the expense of local vitality.
The signatories seem to recognize this in their call for lower speed limits and more pedestrian crossings - and we must also bear in mind the firm call by the International Village BIA for two-way conversion.
However, another crucial part of transforming King Street is to make transit work better. It is already the most over-capacity route in the city, with frequent "drive-bys" as overstuffed buses pass would-be riders waiting at stops.
There are limits to how much capacity you can provide with buses, which is why the planned LRT is so important. In the meantime, a dedicated bus lane will help to squeeze more capacity out of the B-Line and will demonstrate that the five-lane street can still function with a lane dedicated to transit.
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