More than 1,000 would-be drivers can only dream of life in the HOV lane — or any others, fast or slow — during the Pan Am Games.
The government cancelled final road tests for many budding motorists over concerns traffic in the GTA would be too heavy, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca confirmed Tuesday.
That decision, made in early June, has left critics scratching their heads.
“We have known about Pan Am for years, so why were road test bookings taken at this time to begin with?” asked Progressive Conservative MPP Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga).
“It sounds knee-jerk. How many extra cars could there have been?”
A total of 1,137 road tests were axed and drivers asked to reschedule — with extra days made available at other times — “for the sake of keeping the region moving,” Del Duca told the Star.
His officials had been pushing for a 20-per-cent traffic reduction during the games and public transit has been increased to make sure thousands of athletes, tourists and commuters can get where they need to go.
Letters were sent or phone calls made by ministry staff more than a month ago to people who had booked road test appointments, telling them they would have to make arrangements for another time — although 150 have not responded to calls or letters but slots are being set aside so they won’t go to the back of the queue.
“I know it’s disruptive and that’s not always a fun thing,” Del Duca acknowledged, thanking future drivers and the people — parents, friends or diving instructors — taking them to the tests for their “sacrifice.”
It all appears to be for naught, said Peter Christianson, president of Young Drivers of Canada, which provides driver training to about 20,000 Ontarians a year.
“The fear was traffic would be horrendous, but that hasn’t happened,” he said.
“It wasn’t very well thought out and now we’re doing damage control,” added Christianson, who noted the changes “certainly messed up a lot of our instructors’ schedules. It’s a lot of wasted time and energy. It’s unfortunate.”
Some people had booked tests weeks or months in advance in hopes of getting their licences for work or family commitments, said New Democrat MPP Wayne Gates (Niagara Falls), his party’s transportation critic.
“I’m not sure how much traffic there could have been from this. Sounds like these cancellations were little more than an afterthought.”
Five driver exam centres in the GTA were affected — Etobicoke, Downsview, Port Union, Metro East and Oshawa — on some or all days during the games when nearby events threatened to clog traffic.
For example, road exams for all classes of licences were cancelled at the centre at Port Union Road and Highway 401 for the majority of the games, from July 10 to 26.
In Etobicoke, tests for G2 and M2 licences were scrapped on select days with road exams for all classes of licences now cancelled for the rest of the week.
There were no fees for switching road test appointments, which could be done at the same location at a later date or at a different drive test centre. Tests were added to the schedule at the Oshawa centre on two Saturdays, when it is not usually open.
No closures are in effect for the Parapan Am Games, which begin in August.
Source: The Hamilton Spectator