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Star: Carpool lanes praised




Carpool lanes praised
More and more drivers choosing to car pool
Dec. 13, 2006. 12:50 PM

Ontario’s year-old high occupancy lanes on selected highways across the GTA have been very successful, saving motorists valuable time in their daily commute, Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield said today.

"I am delighted to say that HOV lanes are an unqualified success," she told a press conference today.

Cansfield said these motorists are saving anywhere from 14 to 17 minutes of travel and that these special lanes are also alleviating congestion in the regular lanes as well.

The minister said more motorists with two or more passengers are using HOV lanes on Highway 403 from Mississauga to Highway 401 and southbound Highway 404 from Hwy 7 to 401 than was originally envisioned.

According to a transportation ministry study, the average rush hour speed on HOV lanes is 100 kilometres per hour compared to 60 kilometres per hour in general traffic lanes on Highway 403 and 70 kilometres per hour in the HOV lane compared to 50 kilometres per hour in general purpose lanes on Highway 404 southbound.

Cansfield said this success will generate more HOV lanes across the GTA and Ottawa - some of them already under construction - and added that more detailed construction plans will be announced in the New Year.

Police officials also pointed out that only about five per cent of motorists choose to thumb their noses at the two or more rule and drive solo. That compares with about 10 per cent in U.S. jurisdiction.

The OPP reports issuing about 250 tickets a months since the opening of the HOV lanes.

According to a ministry statement, a performance analysis of Highway 403 and Highway 404 southbound prior to and after the opening of the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes in December 2005 showed that HOV lanes are providing a faster, more reliable commute for carpoolers and transit users.

Here what the study found with regard to time saved:

* Motorists using HOV lanes on Highway 403 eastbound are taking up to eight minutes to drive the stretch during rush hour compared to 22 minutes prior to the opening of HOV lanes.

* HOV users on Highway 404 southbound spend only nine minutes, compared to 26 minutes before.

* General traffic lane users save eight minutes on Highway 403 eastbound over their travel time prior to HOV lane opening.

According to the ministry study, carpool travel has increased on all highways with designated HOV lanes.

Results show:

* Nearly 40 per cent of commuters are now carpooling on Highway 403 eastbound in the morning peak hour compared to only 14 per cent in 2003.

* 37 per cent of commuters carpool on Highway 403 westbound in the afternoon peak hour compared to only 22 per cent in 2003.

* 37 per cent of commuters carpool on Highway 404 southbound in the morning peak compared to fewer than 16 per cent in 2004.

* HOV lanes on Highway 403 run 14 kilometres in both directions between the 407 and the 401, and 11 kilometres on Highway 404 southbound - from Highway 7 to 401.

The number of vehicles an HOV lane can carry will vary by type of highway. However, a typical HOV lane can carry 1,600 to 1,800 vehicles per peak hour. Currently, Highway 403 HOV lanes carry more than 1,000 vehicles in each lane during peak period and Highway 404 southbound carries 1,350 vehicles per peak period.



More HOV lanes planned
Cansfield offers no details of plan to be announced early next year but hints at lanes on the 400 all the way to Barrie
Dec. 13, 2006. 07:45 AM

In early 2007, the McGuinty government will announce a major expansion plan for high-occupancy vehicle lanes on 400-series highways in the GTA.

Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield told the Star that the expansion will not take away existing lanes to make way for lanes exclusively for vehicles with at least two occupants. But she gave no specifics of the plan.

That effectively rules out adding HOV to the 401 atop Toronto, where the highway spans 16 lanes, and is not set to widen, according to the ministry.

"We're anticipating a 33 per cent growth in population by the year 2025," Cansfield said. "We're now looking at major (employment and residential) developments in Barrie, Innisfil, East Gwillimbury, Bradford. You've got to keep moving these people."

Cansfield hinted at one possible HOV priority — a multi-year, multi-phase effort to add HOV lanes on Highway 400 all the way up to Barrie. She also wants the expansion to help carpoolers driving to GO train station parking lots.

"You haven't heard anyone complaining about (HOV). Hell, if it works, why wouldn't you expand it?" said transit expert Richard Soberman.

A year to the day after the first HOV lanes opened on Highways 404 and 403, the ministry will release statistics today it says prove there's been a positive effect on commute times. The ministry says that drivers who use the southbound 404 HOV lanes in rush hour save an average of 14 minutes per trip, and that southbound 404 drivers who do not use the HOV during rush hour save an average of nine minutes per trip.

Already announced for completion in 2007 are HOV lanes northbound on the 404, from Highway 401 to Highway 7; and construction has begun on adding 16 kilometres of HOV in both directions of the QEW between Oakville and Burlington.

HOV lanes on Highway 400 could help alleviate congestion where the highway meets the 401, says City of Toronto transportation services manager Nazzareno Capano.

"That area is so overly congested. With all the development that is happening further north, that would be the area that you would try to target first," he said.

But for any new HOV lanes to help congestion, urban planning professor Jim Mars said enforcement is the key to deter cheaters from clogging up the lane.

"We have to have spot enforcement," said Mars, who teaches at Ryerson University.

"It (may) require police officers or green hornets. Eventually it may be possible to use cameras. You've got to enforce hard at the beginning and then you can relax."

Mars says his students studied users of the HOV lane on Bay St. in downtown Toronto and discovered that 60 per cent of the vehicles did not belong there.

But the Ontario Safety League isn't sure drivers are ready for a wide rollout of HOV. League president Brian Patterson says he sees dangerous driving where the HOV lane on the southbound 404 ends and merges into regular traffic flowing into Highway 401.

While taking away a 401 lane for HOV will not be part of the announcement, Cansfield and Soberman agree such a move is worth considering in the future.

Soberman thinks highway planners should look at making the left lane of the 401 express an HOV lane.

"There's an interesting philosophical argument. The downside of taking a lane is there's a good chance you might reduce the total capacity of the road if you didn't have enough demand for the HOV," he said.

"On the other hand, you could reward people who are travelling more efficiently. My guess is you probably wouldn't lose any capacity and it might be worth trying."


If there really was a 36% increase in carpools on 403 eastbound, wouldn't that mean AT LEAST an 18% decrease in traffic? so what's wrong with taking out a lane of general traffic to make the HOV?


What we need is HOT (High occupancy toll) lanes for the express lanes of the 401. Damn "taking lanes" from the SOVs - the excuse that they can not use existing lanes for HOV is a cop-out.

HOV lanes a green disguise
Headshot of John Barber


From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Writer Joan Didion called High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes “bureaucratic terrorism†when they first appeared on California freeways in the 1960s. She was naive. No terrorist was ever as subtle as the operatives who have since spread HOV lanes across the continent, most lately to the 400-series highways in and around Toronto. Yesterday's terrorists are today's potentates.

They have succeeded in part because HOV lanes, rather than suppressing automobile use, often do the exact opposite: They encourage it. Justified in terms of the environment, new HOV lanes actually make it easier for everybody to commute long distances by car. The year-old 400-series HOV lanes, which Transport Minister Donna Cansfield promised to expand yesterday, put a green disguise on an old-fashioned policy to help commuters by widening expressways.

You wouldn't know it reading any of the high-minded principles in the province's progressive new growth plan for a region it persists in calling “the Greater Golden Horseshoe.†But the Transport Minister herself presented the proof yesterday when reporting on the tremendous initial success of the 400-series HOVs.

Not only did her department report amazing acceptance of the new lanes, with more than a third of all commuters now said to be using them where they exist — and cutting their travel times dramatically by doing so — it also documented tremendous benefits for solo drivers as well. Thanks to new HOV lanes, solo drivers commuting into town on Highway 403 now save eight minutes, and those on Highway 404 now save 11 minutes.

Adding a lane for HOV use, rather than taking an existing lane, is “bad for transit, bad for air quality, bad for climate change and bad planning,†according to newly elected Toronto Councillor Gord Perks, who helped fight off a similar road-widening program in Toronto as an activist a decade ago. By helping all traffic go faster, he added, new lanes attract more drivers — and that means more sprawl.

University of Toronto transportation expert Richard Soberman agrees. “If what you're trying to do is convince more people to use transit and rely less on their automobile, then adding a lane is not the way to do it,†he says. The tougher decision is to designate an existing lane for HOV use, he added. But neither the city nor the province has ever had the nerve to try that.

Consider the 401: Sixteen lanes, and not one reserved for cars with more than a single person inside. It can't have them because it can't be widened any more.

To her credit, the Transport Minister admits the basic duplicity of Ontario-style environmentalism, pointing to the need for extra highway capacity to accommodate the expected rapid growth of such outposts as Innisfil, East Gwillimbury and Bradford.

The names are worth noting because they appear nowhere in the maps and schedules accompanying the government's potentially groundbreaking “Places to Grow†plan. That plan, officially adopted last summer, is all about restricting and concentrating growth, shifting us Greater Golden Horseshonians away from cars and intensifying existing urban centres. It's a beautiful vision. But the actual policy, as Ms. Cansfield revealed, is to create more highway capacity to abet more sprawl on far-distant green fields.

Last month, the minister boasted to the Ontario Road Builders' Association that her government has made “record†investments in their favourite activity. Shortly after, Premier Dalton McGuinty emotionally reached out to members of the Ontario Home Builders' Association, extolling their “magical line of work†and fondly recalling the day he and his wife, Terri, abandoned apartment living for their first new home.

This is the same guy whose government has told those same people that they must stop sprawling and start building more apartments. But they don't pay any attention to that, and why should they? Despite the fancy new talk, it's business as usual in Ontario.



Adding a lane for HOV use, rather than taking an existing lane, is “bad for transit, bad for air quality, bad for climate change and bad planning,†according to newly elected Toronto Councillor Gord Perks,
How is further inconveniencing drivers going to make a difference without viable alternatives? Punishing drivers by making it more difficult to get to work and deliver goods is not the solution. Comments like this make good sound bites for "green conscious" "progressive" types, but does little for everyone else's confidence.

Abeja de Almirante

I love the car pool lanes. If I've got my two kids in the car I can claim the three or more occupants rule and scoot along while the solo riders are stuck.


Nothing wrong with that either. From purely a transportation engineering perspective (i.e. one that is not politically driven), the goal of HOV lanes is to improve the people carrying capacity of the road system. The fact that they may reduce traffic and may take cars off the road is secondary.