Toronto's streetcar is a rarity in North America: a legacy system that still functions as a transportation workhorse, moving large numbers of people. The busiest route is on King Street, where people make 65,000 streetcar trips a day.
But like most surface transit, the King Street streetcar operates in mixed traffic, making it frustratingly slow. Those 65,000 passengers get bogged down by the 20,000 motor vehicles that travel on King Street in a typical day.
They used to, at least. Toronto is trying out new rules along 1.6 miles of King Street, with strict limits on motor vehicle access. Now that King Street is no longer a through-route for cars, transit trips are a lot faster, writes Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic:
It’s therefore not a full car ban; some vehicles will still travel in the streetcar right-of-way, a less-than-optimal situation. But it is an effort to ensure that drivers are only using the portion of the street they need. As a result, most of the street is reserved for trains, bikers, and pedestrians.
Freemark points out that this reconfiguration of King Street only cost $1.5 million. It's an extremely cost-effective strategy that makes sense for other busy street-running transit routes, whether streetcars or buses.
More recommended reading today: Streets.mn considers whether roundabouts are safer for pedestrians. And Price Tags reports that Vancouver is under pressure from older residents to install rest rooms at transit stations.