High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes

Update: see previous post July 1, 2010 Electric (PHEV’s & BEV’s) Vehicles are Eligible to Travel in the HOV Lanes

HOV is an abbreviation for “High Occupancy Vehicles”. There is a dedicated HOV lane, designed for motor vehicles with two (2) of more passengers. This lane encourages motorists to carpool, with less vehicles on the road, especially during various rush hours. Less vehicles on the highway is better for the environment (reduces greenhouse gas emissions) and this can reduce rush hour traffic and can get motorists to their destination quicker (the government claims that trips can be reduced by about 12 minutes on average).

High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane for vehicles with at least two occupants or buses

The Regulations in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act states the following about HOV lanes:

Regulations for High Occupancy Vehicle lanes

154.1 (1) Where a part of the King’s Highway has been divided into clearly marked lanes for traffic, the Minister may by regulation designate any lane as a high occupancy vehicle lane for that part of the King’s Highway and may make regulations,

(a) limiting the designation to specified months or times of the year, days, times, conditions or circumstances;

(b) limiting the use of high occupancy vehicle lanes to vehicles, or any class or type of vehicles, with a specified number of occupants, and prescribing conditions and circumstances for such use;

(c) regulating the use of high occupancy vehicle lanes, including prescribing rules of the road applicable to the use of the lanes, exemptions from any requirement in this Part or in a regulation made under this Part applicable to the use of the lanes and conditions and circumstances for such exemptions;

(d) providing for the erection of signs and the placing of markings to identify high occupancy vehicle lanes and the entry and exit points for high occupancy vehicle lanes;

(e) prescribing the types of the signs and markings referred to in clause (d), instructions to be contained on them and the location of each type of sign and marking. 2005, c. 26, Sched. A, s. 25.

Regulation may be general or specific

(2) A regulation made under subsection (1) may be general or specific in its application and may apply differently to different classes or types of vehicles. 2005, c. 26, Sched. A, s. 25.


(3) No person shall drive a motor vehicle in a high occupancy vehicle lane or enter or exit a high occupancy vehicle lane except in accordance with this section and the regulations made under it. 2005, c. 26, Sched. A, s. 25.

Fine for Improper use of High Occupany Vehicle lane:

If you drive alone (and pet lovers should not take this the wrong way, but pets in your vehicle do not count as occupants) in an HOV lane and are observed by police doing so, you may be subjected to a fine of $110.00 and the accumulation of three (3) demerit points being added to your driving record with the Ministry of Transporation (which would be reflected on your driver’s abstract for two (2) years).

The Ontario Court of Justice, Schedule 43, The Highway Traffic Act states:
Item 460.2 – Improper Use of High Occupancy Vehicle Lane – Section 154 (1)= Set Fine of $85.00 + the accumulation of three (3) demerit points on your driving record.

In order to calculate the Total Payable Fine (set fine + victim fine surcharge + court cost) you have to take into account both the Victim Fine Surcharge (VFS) and the Court Cost (CC).

$85.00 + $20.00 (VFS) + $5.00 (CC) = Total Payable = $110.00

How can a single driver, drive a vehicle in a HOV lane without violating the Regulations under the Highway Traffic Act?:

The only way a driver can travel alone in his/her vehicle in a lane designated for two (2) or more occupants in the vehicle is to drive in a Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and full battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Both of these vehicles are eligible for the green licence plate.

With a "Green Licence Plate" a single driver (without a passenger) can occupy an HOV lane without violating any regulations pursuant to the Highway Traffic Act.

What are the benefits of green plates?
Vehicles with green plates will have priority access to Ontario’s high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes until June 30, 2015, even if there is only one person in the vehicle. HOV lanes are otherwise reserved for vehicles carrying two or more people.

How do I get my green plate?
Green plates can be acquired through the normal vehicle plating process at ServiceOntario Centres. Please note, on-line orders and personalized green plates are not available. As with the purchase of any new licence plates, the regular fee of $20 applies ($10 for the plate and $10 for a new vehicle permit).

Access to High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes:
Drivers of electric vehicles with green plates will be granted access to high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on 400-series highways until June 30, 2015, even if there is only one individual in the motor vehicle.

HOV lanes open on Monday:

see the story in the Star
Commuters in Oakville, Burlington and Hamilton should get some relief from traffic congestion on the QEW starting Monday when the Province is expected to open new high occupancy vehicle lanes between Trafalgar Road and Guelph Line.

The 16-kilometre widening to eight lanes from six, was announced in 2007 and cost about $380 million.

About 175,000 cars travel that section of the QEW every day, according to a spokesperson for Ontario Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne.

About 39 kilometres of HOV lanes have also been operating on Highways 403 and 404 since about 2005, where the government claims they have cut trip times by about 12 minutes on average.

In 2006 Ontario transportation studies showed the average rush-hour speed in HOV lanes on Highway 403 was 100 km/h compared to 60 km/h in general traffic lanes. On Highway 404 southbound, the HOV average was 70 km/h compared to 50 km/h in the other lanes.

Some critics, however, have said HOV lanes are just more room to put cars and transportation experts say police enforcement of the occupancy rules is critical to the success of the carpooling lanes.

The Ontario government plans to add more than 450 kilometres of HOV lanes around Toronto, including the Niagara region and north to Barrie, over the next 25 years.

The QEW lanes are part of the $32 billion Open Ontario infrastructure funds.

The Province of Ontario has developed an ambitious plan to add over 450 kilometres of new HOV lanes on 400-series highways in the Greater Golden Horseshoe – including some of the most heavily-congested highways in the province – over the next 25 years.

Update: December 1, 2010 – No justification for HOV lanes

Update: December 2, 2010 – HOV lanes now open. More than 16 km of HOV lanes, the longest stretch in the Greater Toronto Area, have opened between Guelph Line in Burlington and Trafalgar Road in Oakville.

Update: December 3, 2010 – Oakville man charged with, amongst other things, stunt driving at 150 km/h in a 100 km/h posted zone in a HOV lane. See additional story on this subject matter

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