Pan Am Lanes

Frank Gunn,The Canadian Press
Vehicles crawl past the nearly empty Pan Am high-occupancy vehicle lanes, which went into effect on Monday and can only be used by vehicles carrying at least three people.

Drivers were frustrated as traffic slowed and commute times rose when HOV lane restrictions introduced for the Pan Am Games took effect Monday.

During the late morning and early afternoon, traffic was moving well on the Burlington-Oakville stretch of the QEW, with several vehicles using the HOV lanes. Overhead signs in those areas had been changed to reflect the requirement that three or more people need to be in a vehicle in order to use the lanes.

The lane restrictions are in effect between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. from now until July 27. The Games begin July 10.

Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the Ontario Provincial Police said Monday night traffic was “very busy” on the first day of the restrictions.

“The non-HOV lanes were full pretty much all day,” he said. “There were times when it was moving better than other times. The HOV lanes were actually moving pretty well. There was a lot of lane discipline.”

He said, however, patrols checking for compliance did find “a lot of violations as well.” He couldn’t say how many tickets were issued and said that would be tallied up and released at the end of the games.

“Everyone who we stopped, for the most part, knew why they were getting stopped and knew they were trying to beat the system and knew they got caught,” Schmidt said. “There were a few people who really claimed ignorance and may not have actually realized it started (Monday). There were lots of warning, lots of charges. There was a mix of everything.”

“I think, in the end, it was a good story for the most part,” Schmidt added. “There were some problems, but Day One has come and gone and I think we made it all right.”

Illegal use of the lanes can result in a $110 ticket and three demerit points. OPP patrols will be kept up during the length of the games.

Drivers voiced their frustration on social media. One commented it now “takes me twice as long to get into Toronto.”

“Congratulations Toronto,” posted another, “you’ve managed to make traffic even worse.”

Between 125,000 and 180,000 vehicles travel on the Queen Elizabeth Way between Hamilton and Toronto each day.

In addition to vehicles with three or more people, certain vehicles can use the designated lanes. The lanes are reserved for media, athletes, Games-accredited vehicles, emergency vehicles, public transit and electric vehicles with green plates.

With files from the Toronto Star

Source: The Hamilton Spectator