After 16,000 traffic tickets, drivers still ignoring rules of King Street transit project

At the corner of King Street W. and Portland Street, it only takes a minute to see a driver disobey the new street signs and go straight through on King Street, when really their only legal option is to turn right.

From the King Street pilot project’s inception in November 2017 to July 2019, police have issued 16,000 tickets.

But even though the changes to give priority to streetcars along Toronto’s busiest surface transit route are now permanent, it seems drivers just aren’t getting it.

Kevin and Kelly van Niekerk, a married couple living in the area, say drivers disobeying the rules are a common sight.

In fact, Kelly van Niekerk points out two cars that illegally follow the streetcar through the lights.

“So that happens all the time and that’s kind of frustrating to see because we obey the rules,” said van Niekerk.

“Why can’t everybody else?”

‘Biggest culprit – usually people from outside of the city’

For locals the rules have been drilled in. You can only drive on King Street for a block anywhere between Bathurst Street and Jarvis Street. After that block, signs dictate that you can only turn right.

Going straight is reserved for streetcars and left turns aren’t really an option.

Police say the biggest culprits are usually people from outside of the city.

“All those neat things on King Street, it’s a destination for tourists. A lot of the folks that we’re stopping here are from out of town,” said Sgt. Brett Moore, with Toronto Police Traffic Services.

The tickets aren’t cheap. They’re $110 plus a few demerit points. But officers aren’t always around to catch violators.

“There’s the perception that maybe there’s not enough enforcement,” said Moore. “But we have officers out both in Traffic Services and there’s three downtown divisions that this corridor runs through.”

One thing Kevin Van Niekerk wants to see is cameras on every corner.

“In London … a camera instantly takes a photograph of the infraction and you get a ticket in the mail plus demerit points,” he said.

City wants to speed cameras on King Street

That’s a solution Coun. Joe Cressy says the city wants to apply. As part of the Safer School Zones Act, Cressy says the city asked the province for legislative authority to implement automated enforcement.

“We’ve done that not only to ensure that transit priority streets like King Street work more effectively but also to make sure that it’s safer around schools and in school zones,” said Cressy.

In an email from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, the government says it’s working “with municipalities to support the implementation of automated speed enforcement and is currently developing a regulatory framework to govern evidentiary requirements needed for the implementation of automated speed enforcement.”

There’s no clear timeline as to when that will happen but Cressy says since council voted in April to make the King Street project permanent, there will be a massive redesign of the street in 2023 when the streetcar tracks are replaced.

“It is to redesign and re-imagine King Street as a new grand boulevard and transit corridor … We wanted to make King Street work better for people and to move people quicker.”

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