Ontario Adding Travel Options to Help Manage Congestion
Permit applications for Canada’s first High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes can be submitted online at Ontario.ca/HOTLanesfrom Aug. 1 to Aug. 21. HOT lanes improve traffic flow, maximize highway capacity, and help to manage congestion.
The pilot project begins Sept. 15, 2016, when the existing High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on the QEW will be designated as HOT lanes. Single occupant drivers will have the option to apply for an HOT permit, while carpools of two or more will still be able to use these lanes for free. A limited number of applicants will be selected to purchase permits through a draw. Permits cost $180 for a three-month term and are renewable for a maximum of two terms.
Ontario issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking innovative technologies to support tolling, compliance and performance monitoring of HOT lanes. The RFI closes on Aug. 22, 2016, and supports Ontario’s innovation sector by providing an opportunity to test emerging traffic management and tolling technologies.
Ontario is making the largest investment in public infrastructure in the province’s history — about $160 billion over 12 years, which is supporting 110,000 jobs every year across the province, with projects such as hospitals, schools, roads, bridges and transit. Since 2015, the province has announced support for more than 475 projects that will keep people and goods moving, connect communities and improve quality of life. To learn more about infrastructure projects in your community, go to Ontario.ca/BuildON.
Investing in new travel options and supporting innovation is part of the government’s economic plan to build Ontario up and deliver on its number-one priority to grow the economy and create jobs. The four-part plan includes helping more people get and create the jobs of the future by expanding access to high-quality college and university education. The plan is making the largest infrastructure investment in hospitals, schools, roads, bridges and transit in Ontario’s history and is investing in a low-carbon economy driven by innovative, high-growth, export-oriented businesses. The plan is also helping working Ontarians achieve a more secure retirement.
Up to 1,000 HOT permits will be made available for each three-month term, beginning with approximately 500 permits in the first term.
For the first term only, permits will be valid from Sept. 15 to Dec. 31, 2016, giving permit holders an additional two weeks of HOT lane use as an early incentive bonus.
A 15.5 km stretch of dedicated HOT lanes with electronic tolling in both directions on Highway 427 will open in 2021, from south of Highway 409 to north of Rutherford Road.
HOT lanes will complement other initiatives, such as GO Regional Express Rail that will increase GO train trips by 50 per cent over the next five years with more stops serving more communities.
Until Canadians own cars that truly drive themselves, they can forget getting off the legal hook if they’re in an accident with a vehicle that still has a steering wheel, suggests a report from Canada’s biggest law firm.
Under Canada’s common-law legal system, driving in semi-autonomous mode isn’t much different than operating a vehicle with cruise control, says the brief issued by Borden Ladner Gervais.
“As long as a driver with some ability to assume or resume control of the vehicle is present, there would seem to be a continuing basis for driver negligence and liability as they presently exist,” said the report entitled Autonomous Vehicles, Revolutionizing Our World, published this week on the firm’s website.
The report comes as the federal government contemplates developing regulations for automated vehicles. Ottawa set aside $7.3 million over two years in the spring budget to improve motor vehicle safety, with part of that money earmarked for developing new rules for self-driving cars.
But until fully autonomous vehicles hit the consumer market, there’s not much need to enact new laws, says BLG partner and report author Kevin LaRoche.
“With regards to driver liability, common law, coupled with the current legislation, may be sufficient to address liability involving all levels of autonomous vehicles, short of fully autonomous vehicles which do not require any level of human control,” LaRoche wrote.
“For fully autonomous vehicles, it would seem that legislative amendments would be required to clarify whether the owner would be vicariously liable and under what circumstances.”
Several jurisdictions have allowed testing of fully autonomous cars, buses and trucks. Ontario launched a program in January — under specific restrictions — to let auto manufacturers and high-tech companies try out their driverless inventions on the province’s roadways. None of the carmakers had applied for a testing permit under the program as of early July.
But with semi-autonomous vehicles — such as the Tesla Model S — already being sold to consumers, few jurisdictions have yet put legislative parentheses around where, when and how to drive them.
Ontario uses the SAE Standard to define categories of self-driveability on a scale from zero to five, with zero representing no automation features and five being full automation.
Category three vehicles are those considered to operate with conditional automation that requires a driver to pay attention to the road and take over control if the vehicle encounters a problem that can’t be handled fully by automated systems.
Category four vehicles would still have a human “driver,” but wouldn’t necessarily need the human to take over the controls in a pinch.
Germany’s federal transport ministry said recently it was working on a draft law to govern SAE level three and four cars.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States is working on new guidelines, but currently regulates autonomous vehicles under a slightly different system that was adopted in 2013.
Regardless of which scale is used, unless the car has no steering wheel, the driver will always face potential liability in an accident, with the scope depending on the circumstances of the mishap, said BLG partner Robert Love.
“There’s always going to be, we believe, that element of saying, ‘Did the driver act appropriately, prudently, in the circumstances of either engaging or disengaging whatever feature it happens to be?”‘ said Love.
It will be up to Canadian judges to decide, however, who is ultimately responsible for causing an accident in Canada — and that could also include the carmaker, he said.
Lawyers and legislators in the U.S. may already have their first test case in Florida following a recent fatal crash involving a Tesla and a tractor-trailer.
While investigators have revealed few details about the exact circumstances of the crash, there have been reports that the driver may have been distracted by a movie playing in his car.
The question for a judge may ultimately revolve around whether the driver was at fault for failing to pay attention to road hazards, or whether the sensors connected to the Tesla’s autopilot system failed to detect the white truck as it turned into the path of the car.
And it’ll be the judge who ends up portioning the blame, if there is any to be had, LaRoche predicted.
“Both parties will ultimately be before the court.”
After two serious motorcycle collisions on the same day earlier this month, the Windsor Police Service is warning everyone who shares the road to take more care.
One of the two collisions on July 15 ended in death. Josh Bennett, 27, from Belle River changed lanes while riding in the westbound lane of Ojibway Parkway when he hit the back end of a truck July 15. He then veered off the road and “collided with a fixed object,” police said. He died days later.
The have been two serious collisions involving motorcycles and resulting in serious injuries or death in Windsor in each of the last five years.
“Although we haven’t seen an increase in serious motorcycle related collisions we had two which occurred on the same day this year which prompted legitimate concerns from the community and the Windsor Police Service,” Windsor police spokesman Cst. Andrew Drouillard said in a statement.
Over the next two weeks, police will issue important road safety tips through Twitter and Facebook. The tips will focus on keeping the roadway safe for riders of motorcycles and drivers of vehicles.
“With an increasing number of motorcycle enthusiasts hitting the road during the nice summer weather months and during vacations we want to remind all motorists that it is the joint responsibility to keep the roadways safe,” Drouillard said.
A Brampton judge has dismissed an impaired driving charge against a man who was not given access to a Punjabi interpreter when he spoke with a lawyer following his arrest, which violated his right to counsel.
While police did initially try to accommodate the man’s language needs, their conduct “fell below the standard of care reasonably expected of them in the circumstances,” Ontario Court Justice Paul Monahan wrote in a decision released last week.
Bikkar Khandal was arrested in October 2015 at a RIDE spot-check in Mississauga. Once Khandal had been brought to the police division, the arresting officer called duty counsel — who provide free legal advice over the phone to individuals under arrest — and also requested a Punjabi interpreter, according to Monahan’s ruling.
But the lawyer on the phone said something along the lines of “I speak English, he speaks English, we will do this in English,” and did not arrange for an interpreter, Monahan wrote. The judge found that the lawyer’s conduct was “inappropriate and wrong.”
He also noted that after speaking with duty counsel, Khandal told the officers “but he’s in English, right? I’m not much English.” Monahan said that should have caused the police to call back duty counsel, and again request an interpreter.
The judge said this was necessary as he considered Khandal’s ability to speak English to be limited.
“It is also my view that both Constable (Michael) Lupson and Constable (Eric) Passmore ought to have known early on during the breath room attendance, when Mr. Khandal expressed concerns about the fact that duty counsel spoke English and he (Mr. Khandal) spoke little English, that Mr. Khandal could not have had a proper consultation with counsel,” Monahan wrote.
“They should have arranged a further consultation with duty counsel and a Punjabi language interpreter at that time.”
Lupson was the arresting officer, while Passmore was the breath technician at the police division.
Khandal’s trial lawyer did not return a request for comment. A spokesman for Legal Aid Ontario, which maintains the duty counsel hotline, said the government agency is investigating and declined to comment further.
A Peel police spokesman said the force is reviewing Monahan’s decision.
The judge concluded that the breach of Khandal’s rights was serious, and he excluded the breath sample evidence, calling the decision “a relatively easy one” given the circumstances. This resulted in the charge being dismissed.
Khandal first blew 140 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood — nearly twice the legal limit — and a half-hour later blew 130 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood, according to the ruling.
“In my view, notwithstanding that Constable Lupson and Constable Passmore were attempting to act in good faith and notwithstanding that I consider them to be honest witnesses and officers, in my view they fell below the standard of care reasonably expected of them in the circumstances,” Monahan wrote.
He concluded that admitting the breath samples would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
“It would give the court’s stamp of approval to a failure to respect the obvious and important language needs and rights to counsel of a detained person and it would be disrespectful to the diverse community in which this court operates,” Monahan wrote.
The decision comes about three weeks after a different judge at the same courthouse criticized Peel Regional Police officerswho didn’t immediately return a man’s turban following his arrest. That violation resulted in the man’s impaired driving charge being tossed and prompted Peel police Chief Jennifer Evans to order an internal review.
“The reality is that when someone is in custody, they’re at the mercy of the police and it means police have to do their jobs properly, including making reasonable efforts to facilitate access to counsel,” said criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown, who was not involved in the Khandal case.
“Putting somebody with limited English in touch with an English-speaking duty counsel is failing in that regard.”
The Khandal matter is at least the second case in a little over a year in which Legal Aid Ontario’s duty counsel hotline has come under judicial scrutiny and led to a charge being dismissed.
It’s a Monday afternoon and with nowhere else to go, an Edmonton cyclist weaves through throngs of office workers on a downtown street. There are close calls as the man, wearing a dress shirt, slacks and no helmet, inches between pedestrians.
Beside him a six-lane boulevard is busy with pickup trucks and SUVs.
There’s nowhere else for the cyclist to go because Edmonton is the largest Canadian city without a single dedicated bike path downtown.
While Vancouver is rolling out a bike-share program and Calgary finished a downtown network of bike paths last summer, the car is still king in Edmonton. The city’s first downtown bike path will not be finished before 2020, based on current plans.
Frustrated cyclists and local politicians bemoan a city government lacking ambition. They point to the contrast between what Mayor Don Iveson has accomplished and his progressive image. The young mayor championed active transportation three years ago when he ran for office, but now he has overseen the removal of four bike paths.
“By all accounts, Edmonton has fallen behind and we need political will to move forward,” Councillor Scott McKeen said in an interview from his office in City Hall. “We’ve been doing this in a really half-arsed way.”
Catherine Kloczkowski, a spokeswoman for the city, explained via e-mail that Edmonton’s cycling infrastructure is being built in conjunction with efforts to rebuild streets in neighbourhoods. “This is a unique program for Canada in that all the roadway infrastructure is rebuilt along with the installation of cycling infrastructure.”
It’s far too little for Mr. McKeen, who represents much of downtown Edmonton and is in his third year on city council. In early July, he pushed through a motion to shake up how the city builds bike paths. Stantec, the Edmonton-based engineering giant, has offered to pay for half the cost of studying how to build a network of temporary bike paths in the city.
The company, which did not respond to a request for comment, has hundreds of workers in the city’s downtown. Many of them would like a safer way to bike to work, Mr. McKeen said.
The councillor said he is aiming to have kilometres of concrete barriers and plastic bollards thrown down by the fall. It would be a complete about-face from how the city does things now.
Showing clear irritation as he spoke, Mr. McKeen questioned why it takes the city six years to fund and build a single dedicated cycling path, which he mockingly called a “feat of engineering.”
Edmonton residents are spread out over nearly 700 square kilometres and the sprawling capital is knitted together by ample roads. Gasoline is typically the cheapest in the country. Winters are long and cold. And perhaps most important, while downtown has a skyline of tall buildings, most of the city’s jobs are actually spread out in a manufacturing belt and shopping districts that ring the city.
The biking situation has only gotten worse during Mr. Iveson’s time in office, said Chris Chan, the executive director of Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Society.
One move he cites is the decision to erase four new bike paths in 2015. Edmonton city councillors argued that the 14 kilometres of painted bike paths were in the wrong place and motorists complained that no one was using them. While Mr. Chan said the paths, which ran through suburban and industrial areas, were not exceptional, the millions of dollars spent removing them sent the wrong message.
In their place, council has approved plans to build two new bike lanes by the end of the decade, totalling nearly eight kilometres.
“There’s a frustration at the pace we’re going. Not only at the removal of bike lanes, but that it’ll take another four or five years for the partial completion of two bike paths. It feels like I’ll be dead before there’s a bike network in Edmonton,” Mr. Chan said.
Beyond the removal of the bike paths, there have been a number of grievances brought up by cyclists under Mr. Iveson’s watch. One of the few footbridges in the city is being torn down to make way for a new light rail line and the installation of suicide barriers on the city’s main bridge has made a shared path dangerously narrow, according to many cyclists. The mayor admitted as much when he suggested last week that cyclists should consider walking their bikes across the one-kilometre span. He soon backtracked after howls of protest.
“There’s a fear of upsetting motorists, that’s what it comes down to. They’re really timid around cycling infrastructure,” Mr. Chan said of the city government.
There’s a disconnect in Edmonton between the city’s plan to build dense, walkable communities and how it actually spends money, said Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s former chief planner. Mr. Toderian came to Edmonton in February at the city’s invitation to speak about how it’s doing.
“The city has an A grade for vision and a C grade for follow-through. There’s a wavering when it comes to the tough choices,” Mr. Toderian said in an interview.
The city’s budget for walking and cycling is a rounding error in the road budget, he said, a problem compounded by a city that lacks urgency. “They’re taking one step forward and two steps back,” he said. “Other cities are doing more, smarter, faster.”
That the city tore out bike lanes without replacing them “speaks volumes,” Mr. Toderian said.
“In the context of a global revolution in urban biking, they’re making small steps slowly,” he added. “Edmonton could change its sign from City of Champions to City of Roads.”
There isn’t a plan in Edmonton calling for a citywide system of bike paths. A 1992 plan called for a 500-km grid of painted paths across the city, but it never received enough funding and many of the paths that were built do not connect to each other. A rethink in the mid-2010s to shift away from painted bike lanes led to the current plan for two real paths, near the city’s two main thoroughfares, Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue.
David Shepherd is the New Democrat MLA for downtown Edmonton. A cycling advocate, he often bikes to the provincial legislature in his suit – he says it’s the fastest way to get to his seat. He admits that it can be harrowing and says that a rear-view mirror is indispensable on his bike to feel safe in traffic.
“I’ve been cycling back and forth to work year-round for about five years. At this point, I’m pretty comfortable with most of what’s there, but I’ve certainly had the occasional close call with drivers. I’d love to see decent cycling infrastructure downtown sooner rather than later,” he said.
Over the past decade, 14 cyclists and 78 pedestrians have been killed on the city’s roads, and nearly 5,500 have been injured.
With much of the staff at his constituency office now biking as well, Mr. Shepherd said many of the city’s downtown bike racks are busier than ever. But he admitted that the city has to overcome resistance from some drivers.
“Not seeing a lane completed until 2020 is frustrating to riders.”