While some long-time business owners are fingering the bus lane for lost sales, new businesses are opening along the route and developers are investing in renovations.
By Ryan McGreal
Published January 16, 2015
One of the issues swirling around the contentious transit-only lane running on King Street between Mary and Dundurn has been the impact on local retail businesses.
A few business owners have moved off King Street, complaining that customers can no longer park on the north curbside of King and don't want to park on the south side and cross the street.
Here on RTH, we have made the argument that when customers aren't willing to cross the street, that indicates something wrong with the street itself rather than the bus lane.
City staff recommend restoring the north curbside parking west of Bay, a change that can be funded from money remaining in the Metrolinx capital fund that paid for the bus lane.
Nevertheless, it's clear that business owners along King are divided, with some supporting it but more in opposition.
Yet while some long-time business owners are fingering the bus lane for lost sales, new businesses are opening along the route. During this week's General Issues Committee meeting, Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr mentioned that the picture has been a mix of both bad and good news.
Between October 2013 and January 2015, the City issued licences for 30 new businesses along the bus lane route:
|Address||Issue Date||Type of Business|
|1 King Street East||2013-10-04||Cigarette/Tobacco Sales|
|1 King Street East||2013-10-04||Food Shop|
|100 King Street West||2013-10-11||Eating Establishment|
|158 King Street West||2013-10-22||Eating Establishment|
|120 King Street West||2013-11-05||Eating Establishment|
|120 King Street West||2013-11-06||Eating Establishment|
|1 King Street East||2013-11-07||Places of Amusement|
|116 King Street West||2013-11-28||Eating Establishment|
|3 King Street East||2013-12-12||Eating Establishment|
|194 King Street West||2013-12-23||Eating Establishment|
|228 King Street West||2014-02-07||Eating Establishment|
|152 King Street West||2014-02-10||Eating Establishment|
|463 King Street West||2014-02-14||Personal Service Facility|
|393 King Street West||2014-02-19||Personal Service Facility|
|13 King Street East||2014-02-20||Eating Establishment|
|230 King Street West||2014-02-20||Personal Service Facility|
|160 King Street West||2014-03-19||Personal Service Facility|
|19 King Street East||2014-04-25||Eating Establishment|
|174 King Street West||2014-05-01||Eating Establishment|
|213 King Street West||2014-05-30||Public Garage|
|7 King Street East||2014-06-16||Eating Establishment|
|294 King Street West||2014-06-17||Personal Service Facility|
|246 King Street West||2014-06-26||Eating Establishment|
|7 King Street East||2014-07-16||Public Halls|
|467 King Street West||2014-08-15||Food Shop|
|17 King Street East||2014-10-21||Eating Establishment|
|17 King Street East||2014-10-21||Public Halls|
|19 King Street East||2014-11-26||Places of Amusement|
|13 King Street East||2014-12-18||Personal Service Facility|
|1 King Street East||2015-01-02||Eating Establishment|
That is not including new business licences inside Jackson Square, which would also presumably be negatively affected by traffic congestion on the bus lane. Another 14 new business licences were issued inside Jackson Square:
|Address||Issue Date||Type of Business|
|2 King Street West||2013-10-25||Cigarette/Tobacco Sales|
|2 King Street West||2013-11-08||Cigarette/Tobacco Sales|
|2 King Street West||2014-02-10||Cigarette/Tobacco Sales|
|2 King Street West||2014-02-10||Food Shop|
|2 King Street West||2014-03-21||Cigarette/Tobacco Sales|
|2 King Street West||2014-03-21||Food Shop|
|2 King Street West||2014-05-21||Cigarette/Tobacco Sales|
|2 King Street West||2014-05-21||Food Shop|
|2 King Street West||2014-06-13||Eating Establishment|
|2 King Street West||2014-09-18||Food Shop|
|2 King Street West||2014-10-20||Cigarette/Tobacco Sales|
|2 King Street West||2014-10-20||Food Shop|
|2 King Street West||2014-11-21||Eating Establishment|
|2 King Street West||2015-01-07||Eating Establishment|
This is still only a partial list. As City staff note, "not all business require businesses licenses (e.g. retail stores)."
The City's Licencing group is also looking into whether it can determine the number of businesses that have closed during the same period.
According to the King West BIA, four businesses closed, and two of them moved into Jackson Square.
The Downtown BIA notes that the last businesses operating in 18-28 King Street East closed, but that was due to the property owner clearing out the buildings in anticipation of demolishing them, not because of the bus lane.
Similarly, the bingo hall operating at 45 King Street East closed, but that was not due to the bus lane either.
According to the International Village BIA, 8 businessed closed and four businesses opened. One potential "game changer" along King East is the recent purchase of the old Sandbar by a developer who plans to "basically gut and rebuild from the top down".
Another indicator of business confidence in the bus lane corridor is the number of property owners who opted to apply for facade improvement grants.
Between Wellington and Dundurn, a total of 37 properties were approved for $492,000 in grants toward a total of $1.3 million in facade renovations.
As much as there has been some high-profile grumbling about the bus lane, at least some of the businesses that closed were going to close anyway. Not every business is viable, and incremental business turnover is a normal part of a neighbourhood's economy.
It is clear from the number of new business openings, property purchases and investments in building renovations that while some people see the bus lane as a burden, others are not fazed by it and still others recognize that better transit improves the city and transit riders are also customers.
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