Provincial officials say they’re confident that Ontario’s transportation plan will reduce rush-hour traffic in the GTA by 20% during next month’s Pan Am Games.
The plan for road and transit use in the GTA during next month’s Pan Am Games includes some 235 kilometres of HOV lanes on major highways, including ones with a temporary three-occupant requirement for any vehicles not related to the Games.
Pan Am organizers are also calling on residents to tweak their daily commute — by carpooling, taking transit, or working flexible hours — to help achieve the sought-after 20% reduction in rush-hour traffic.
Transportation ministry spokesman Ajay Woozageer said the government has “full confidence” it can achieve goals set out in the Pan Am transportation plan.
“Our modelling and analysis shows that with the right strategies and participation, we can minimize the impact on our network,” he said. “That is why it is so important that people plan ahead and take steps to keep moving like carpooling, cycling, or taking transit.”
The ministry warns that if people fail to change their routine, drivers might be stuck with longer commutes.
“On some highways, average travel speeds may drop from current peak-hour speed if the 20% reduction is not achieved,” Woozageer said.
PC MPP Michael Harris argued the plan is simply not good enough.
“They have spent a significant amount of money,” he added. “And the best they could come up with was tell people to stock up, stay home, and be off the road during the Games.”
The Pan Am Games — July 10-26 — and the Parapan Am Games — Aug. 7-15 — are expected to draw 250,000 visitors to venues spread across 16 Ontario municipalities. The temporary HOV lanes will be enforced from June 29-Aug. 18.
Harris said one only needs to do “simple math” — especially when “standard” disruptions to GTA traffic are taken into account — to figure out there will be congestion problems.
“If you subtract 235 kilometres of current lanes from commuters for HOV (lanes) … that’s going to add to traffic gridlock,” Harris said.
Stephen Laskowski, of the Ontario Trucking Association, said members of his organization hope the HOV policy “may be nimble.”
“If we all notice that the HOV lanes are not being properly utilized … there may be the request out there on behalf of our membership, on behalf of the association, that this policy be revisited,” he said.
Communication about the transportation plan for the Games has been “good,” Laskowski said.
“At the end of the day, there is going to be congestion,” he said. “So what we’re trying to do is work with government to find out what’s the best way for our members to understand what’s going to happen, what needs to be done, and what things can be done.”
The OTA represents more than 500 freight companies with operations across North America. An ongoing survey of the trucking industry on their website says over 85% of respondents anticipate “lengthy delays” during the Games while servicing customers.
•June 29-Aug. 18 (from 5 a.m.-11 p.m.): Temporary HOV lanes will operate on major routes such as parts of Hwy. 401, Hwy. 404, the Gardiner Expressway, the DVP, the QEW, Hwy. 427, Lake Shore Blvd., and Jane St. (north of Steeles Ave. W.)
•June 29-July 27: Three-occupant HOV lanes will be in effect
•July 28-Aug. 18: Two-occupant HOV lanes will be in effect
Source: Ontario Ministry of Transportation