Business along King Street Pilot Project route saw 'slight' growth this spring, report finds

Business along King Street Pilot Project route saw 'slight' growth this spring, report finds

New data released by the city suggests customer spending in the area of Toronto's King Street Pilot Project this spring saw a "slight" improvement, despite local business owners' hope the summer tourism season would soften the blow to their bottom lines. 

Customer spending rose 0.3 per cent above the yearly growth average in May and June, says a report on the pilot project released Wednesday.

"The pilot has remained generally consistent with customer spending over the same months from the year before the pilot," according to the city's new spending data from Moneris Solutions Corp., a tech company that specializes in processing payments. 

But the year-long project has made enemies of many King Street business owners. 

Restaurateurs and other merchants have claimed the project that prioritizes transit and imposes restrictions on private vehicle traffic between Bathurst and Jarvis streets has cost them up to 50 per cent of their business. 

Al Carbone, who runs the Kit Kat Italian Bar and Grill, placed an ice sculpture of a raised middle finger on his patio in protest earlier this year. 

In response to the complaints, the city introduced free parking along the east-west artery for up to two hours in early January. This was followed by an $80,000 promotion, called "Food is King," where diners could get $15 toward a meal by using the popular food-ordering app, Ritual. 

Other findings in the report paint a cheery picture of transit on King Street:

- An 11 per cent bump in ridership on the streetcar line.

- A jump in pedestrian traffic and cycling volume that matches the summer season.

- A travel time improvement of four to five minutes during the evening commute. 

"The King Street Transit Pilot demonstrates that we can move a larger number of people on the City's busiest surface route, quickly and reliably, while managing the impact on drivers and local businesses," said Mayor John Tory in the news release.