The Unified Transportation Coordination Centre still gathering data, but agency confident travel times improved

Pan Am HOV lanes

Pan Am HOV lanes
High Occupancy Vehicle lane on northbound highway 404 at McNicoll Ave during the Pan Am Games in July.

The multi-partner agency responsible for co-ordinating traffic during the Pan Am Games is confident its transportation planning proved a success, even though it’s not yet ready to release any data indicating so.

The Unified Transportation Coordination Centre (UTCC), which continuously monitored Toronto region roadways before and during the Games, is not ready to release any official transit stats. The Pan Am Games ended Sunday.

There’s also no information available from the Games’ Integrated Security Unit as to how many tickets were issued for misuse of special carpool lanes designated primarily to transport Games’ athletes and personnel. That information could be made publicly available as early as this week, said ISU spokesperson Devin Kealey.

The TTC’s Brad Ross also could not provide figures indicating how well the transit commission did providing transportation options for tens of thousands of Games goers.

When the numbers are released, UTCC spokesperson Andrew Posluns is confident they’ll show travel times improved during the Games.

“We are seeing an improvement in travel times across the region and we see the plan we spent those years putting in place is working,” said Posluns on Friday, July 24.

“But one of the things we’re mindful of is we’re gathering information from a lot of sources. And we will need to take that away and do our due-diligence and make sure we can verify what we’ve seen before putting out a definitive assessment as far as how we’ve done for travel times during the Games.”

Posluns, UTCC executive director, was part of a team tasked with continuously monitoring Toronto region roadways during the Games.

Made up of members from police and emergency, transit as well as various municipality and city agencies, the UTCC was tasked with coming up with a viable plan for keeping Toronto moving, which included temporary carpool lanes, the opening of a $25-million transportation management centre as well as entreaties to the public to modify commuting routines.

The UTCC also co-ordinated responses to emergencies and sent notifications to the public when a traffic situation arose.

While such communication between official agencies is hardly new, what was different was that the scale of the Games afforded a unique opportunity for collaboration, said Posluns.

“This is definitely the first time a group like this has been assembled together to manage an event of this scale,” he said. “We’re thrilled to be able to operationalize the Games, keeping in mind they are the largest multi-scale event to take place in Canada with over 30 venues.”

Anecdotally, it seems traffic did reduce during the Games.

Fears of widespread gridlock and stranded athletes didn’t materialize, and following a week of outcry once the Games began, use of the temporary HOV lanes didn’t prove overly burdensome for most. There were no mass transit shutdowns or delays forcing Games attendees to miss their events.

Posluns attributed much of that success to years of planning plus pre-Games consultations with residents and businesses, which provided early notice of the possible traffic pressures. Smart Commute, the Metrolinx agency that advocates and organizes carpool programs for businesses, also did its fair share of outreach that included offering support services to employers before and throughout the Games.

Following the introduction of the HOV lanes at the end of June, more than 1,000 new users signed up for Smart Commute’s services, said Vanessa Barrasa from the agency.

“We’ve also seen a significant increase in the number of visitors to the Smart Commute website – five times as many people are accessing the web page each day since Games began,” said Barrasa over email.

Also, according to Barrasa, Triplinx, an online and mobile planning tool launched recently by Metrolinx, saw an average of 10,000 daily users during the Games, compared to 3,700 per day between May 19 and July 9.

Source: InsideToronto.com