Why The "King Street Pilot Project" is A Great Experiment For Toronto - The Storey Team : Toronto Real Estate

The Storey Team : Toronto Real Estate

Why The "King Street Pilot Project" is A Great Experiment For Toronto

13 November 2017
Cam Woolfrey

King Street Pilot 

Change is tough.

That’s a constant throughout any aspect of life. Most sweeping progressive changes in any facet of life bring out a lot of people who are going to be pissed off at the fact that, the way they currently do things, is about to change.

Enter the “King Street Pilot Project” that is underway as of today in the city of Toronto.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about -

https://web.toronto.ca/city-government/planning-development/planning-studies-initiatives/king-street-pilot/

Using some personal experience, I have recently brought up the topic with people whom I frequently have day-to-day professional conversations with, and the response is generally negative. Very negative. “Won’t this cripple businesses?”, “Are people going to understand how to use it?”, “Won’t this just make traffic worse around other parts of the city?”. These are all valid questions, but in this piece, rather than my templated response of “You should really trust the city planners in Toronto”; I’m going to outline the reasons why I think this experimental project will be an incredibly positive influential change to happen to the city which should set the stage for livable urban development going forward.

Economic Growth

In my opinion the most rational pushback to this type of project is about the businesses that will be affected. It really is a short-term pain for long term gain. People definitely take time to adjust, but when we’re talking about high traffic tourist areas like the entertainment/financial districts – once people start figuring out that it’s more enjoyable to take a leisurely stroll down King they will be much more prone to spend their money there. Don’t believe me? It’s been done before. Superblocks are a concept that has been executed successfully in Barcalona, Spain, and although they’re slightly different in practice,  they hold the same underlying concept. Watch the video below and at 2:54 it shows how putting humans first over cars has proven to increase economic activity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZORzsubQA_M

Not only that, but I would be remised if I didn’t mention that effect on real estate prices. Objectively, if you make a residence more liveable, peaceful, and one that has better access to fluent transportation (i.e. fixing king street-streetcar arrival times) you’re going to see an increase in people’s willingness to pay for those types of residences. Ergo, prices go up.

Car-Centric Planning is Limiting

Without getting into too much detail. One of the most daunting challenges as a planner in a city expanding as fast as Toronto is, is parking. Both commercial and residential development pieces are more expensive, and because of that, developers seem to be working with much smaller lot sizes. From a pricing perspective, it only makes sense to meet minimums when it comes to parking. Why make $45,000 per spot ($277.78 per sq. ft.) when you could make 800 - $1,000 per sq. ft. on a unit. The further you dig the more expensive it is, which is why we’ve seen a drastic reduction in the number of parking spots offered to 1BDR units in pre-construction projects. All I'm trying to say here is that parking is trending towards being an expensive luxury, and consistently less available if prices keep trending the way they are.

My point is that despite the bad rap that the TTC gets, Toronto is clearly putting a lot of their infrastructure money into improving transit and overall accessibility because they understand the economics of “There will be less people who can afford to drive, and more people in the city”. As the city continues to grow, the less we can rely on cars, the more space we can have to develop and ultimately live which overall creates a city that is very liveable. The project goes a long way in establishing a template for Toronto to achieve that goal.

This Small Thing Called "The Environment"

Something that often gets lost in business-centric conversation is the impact on the environment. Toronto is incredibly behind on all of our environmental goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 and According to a 2016 report, “Transportation (not including boat, rail, or airplane) is the greatest source of our greenhouse gas emissions at 41% (versus 11% from waste in city-operated landfills and 48% from industry, residential, and commercial sources)”. I refer again to the video I linked earlier, which talks about the incredibly positive environmental impact these types of "People First" projects have. Projects like this can only aid in helping us meet goals which, when you take a look around the world, are clearly something that should be top of mind.

There are a handful of other reasons why this project is a good idea. Initially, people will need to keep their head on a swivel while people learn to read the road signs, but I am sure local police will have their ticket books ready to help with that. The likely reality is, once people learn and adapt to the new rules, local residents won’t even bat an eye as they streetcar down to a more friendly, bustling area that will hopefully be looked at as one of the building blocks of a more liveable city.

CW