By Mario Toneguzzi
A survey of Toronto consumers indicates that the King Street Transit Pilot project has not had a big negative impact on retailers in the area.
The survey, conducted by POTLOC, a market research firm, in conjunction with Retail Insider, found that 76 per cent of respondents said they’ve visited local retailers either more often or as often as they had before the pilot project. Only 24 per cent said they’ve visited less often.
“We’re seeing a big increase in pedestrians, cyclists and transit users coming to the shops on King,” said Mike Garard, senior account manager and head of POTLOC’s Toronto office. “This more than makes up for the decrease in motorists shopping on King, which has declined significantly.
“Pedestrians, cyclists, transit users all seemed to be extremely in favour of the project . . . The survey results are the concrete evidence that even though it might feel like a ghost town and it feels like it may have lost its vibe that’s not necessarily the case.”
Garard said that while retailers may have lost business from vehicle traffic in the area there has been an increase of people visiting the street since it became more pedestrian-friendly.
The study also indicated that 51 per scent of respondents supported replicating the project on Queen Street, with 39 per cent saying no. The remainder were undecided.
The full report can be found here.
According to the City of Toronto, the King Street Transit Pilot between Bathurst Street and Jarvis Street aims to improve transit reliability, speed, and capacity. “The Pilot is changing how King Street works by not allowing private vehicles through intersections and instead giving priority to streetcars. The King Street Transit Pilot will explore ideas for how to redesign King Street in order to achieve objectives to: Move people more efficiently; Support economic prosperity; and Improve place-making.”
The City of Toronto says the King Street Pilot Study is a plan to prioritize streetcar service along the 504 King Streetcar route from Bathurst Street to Jarvis Street. At present, this route carries 65,000 people on weekdays. King Street will no longer serve as a continuous east-west arterial route through the city, and is intended to serve local traffic only.
Seeing the results of the survey, Garard said “people in Toronto want more urban-friendly areas whether it be less vehicles, more bike lanes, more public art. We were really able to see that because the people that are living in that area or coming from different areas starting to use public transportation more often and they started coming to the area more often. It was the vehicle users that took the big hit.
“To me it’s really the first evidence that Toronto is changing as a city and this is the real first project where we’re looking at changing something that’s not car friendly. Everything in this whole GTA is about vehicles. It’s been the case forever. It’s the first real test of how people would react to the changing urbanization of the city.”
The POTLOC survey of 2,062 people found that 72 per cent of respondents said they want the Transit Pilot on King to go further or to remain as it is.
The pilot was launched November 12, 2017.
The survey also found:
● 69 per cent of transit users have been using public transport on King more often since the pilot began;
● 37 per cent said they visited shops in the area more often, 24 per cent visited less often;
● 53 per cent of public transport users visit the shops on King Street West more often since the Transit Pilot was put in place;
● 81 per cent of drivers visited local shops and services less often;
● 68 per cent of pedestrians said King is more pedestrian-friendly; and
● 91 per cent of cyclists believe King is more bicycle-friendly.
POTLOC, which has its headquarters in Montreal, conducts thousands of geotargeted surveys using social media.
Garard said POTLOC, which opened its Toronto office in March, saw the King Street pilot as an opportunity to showcase what it can do.
“It’s been such a divisive issue between pedestrians and car users. And in the different articles and publications we saw coming out, we really didn’t see any real data from consumers,” he said. “So we saw an opportunity to use our product in order to find out what people actually thought on a larger scale on the pilot project.”
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.