Taxis should get special treatment under King St. pilot project, cab companies say

Mayor John Tory wants the city to give more consideration to how taxi drivers will be affected by the King St. pilot project, after cab industry representatives argued that for-hire vehicles should be treated as a form of public transit.The pilot, which would prioritize streetcar service while restricting the movement of private cars on King, was endorsed by the mayor’s executive committee Monday. The project will go to council next month for final approval.In a speech before the vote, Tory said the city needs to take action to alleviate congestion on one of its main downtown thoroughfares.“I haven’t found anybody yet who doesn’t agree with the notion King St. is not working in its present form. It’s dysfunctional,” Tory said. “In a 21st Century city, we simply have to be prepared to try things to move us off the status quo . . . I think we have to place some priority on the mode of transportation that is moving the most people, by far.”Article Continued BelowRoughly 65,000 people ride the TTC’s 504 King streetcar route every day, compared to about 20,000 drivers who use the street. City staff argue that giving priority to streetcars would allow more people to move through the downtown core more efficiently.Under the pilot’s proposed design, drivers would be forced to turn right at the end of each major block, effectively eliminating through traffic on King. City staff predict the restrictions will reduce car traffic on the street by about 50 per cent, freeing up space for streetcars, which would be allowed to travel the length of the street.But after hearing from representatives of taxi companies who complained they had not been adequately consulted on the plan, Tory moved a motion asking city staff to consult with the industry and consider exempting taxis from the proposed turning restrictions, either completely or during certain times of day. The motion, which the committee approved, also asked staff to consider adding additional spaces for cab stands “or other measures to assist taxis.”