The province’s plan for avoiding traffic chaos during the Pan Am Games is based on little more than a hope and a prayer, critics say.
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced Tuesday the province’s $61-million transportation plan for the summer games is contingent upon a 20 per cent reduction in regular traffic.
“I am confident we will make it happen here,” Del Duca said, but added motorists are going to have to plan ahead to get to work.
“That is unrealistic,” Tory MPP Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga) said, given that so many people in the GTA work in downtown Toronto. “That’s not a plan, that’s an ask of people. It’s a hope.”
However, Hamilton’s transportation overseer says the contentious 20 per cent reduction is a reasonable target.
“For a person to make a change in behaviour one day a week is a 20 per cent reduction,” said Al Kirkpatrick, the city’s manager of transportation management. “It can be done through travelling to work at different times, from telecommuting, through car pooling or taking public transit.
“We believe it is doable. We can get that message out through marketing, advertising and the website.”
Smart Commute Hamilton, a free Metrolinx service located in a dozen Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area municipalities and in operation here for seven years, falls under Kirkpatrick’s department, and has always aimed for a 20 per cent reduction in local commuter traffic with the 20 businesses and educational institutions which employ its services. During the Games, the service will be available on a temporary, no-long-term-commitment basis, to local businesses.
A Pan Am business meeting in Hamilton early this month was told that a regional trip planner app will be supplied to Pan Am ticket purchasers, and available on a website ontario.ca/games2015 for the general public.
“During the Games, transportation planners from across the region will work out of one location to co-ordinate operations,” said Andrew Posluns, director of the transportation ministry’s Pan Am branch. “They’ll monitor the roadways and if there are incidents, they’ll get the information out quickly to the public.
At the same meeting, Posluns also confirmed that the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes running east from Hamilton along the QEW would be extended right into Toronto, rather than stopping west of the Oakville Ford Plant, as they normally do.
As The Spectator reported in February, during the Pan Am Games, July 10-26, a vehicle will have to have three or more occupants to use the HOV lanes, but will drop to two or more occupants during the Parapan Am Games, Aug. 7-15.
On Tuesday, NDP critic MPP Paul Miller (Hamilton-Stoney Creek) wondered out loud how the HOV lanes are going to be enforced, but Deputy OPP Commissioner Brad Blair assured reporters there would be increased enforcement.
But Miller said, “They don’t enforce it now … there are lot of guys going along those lanes that … has one (person).”
Ministry spokesperson Ajay Woozageer said between 125,000 and 180,000 cars travel the QEW between Hamilton and Toronto each day, with only a slight decrease in the summer during rush-hour periods only.
During the busiest hours of the day, the ministry says, there are between 1,100 and 1,400 vehicles per hour in the HOV lanes. Overall, approximately 85 per cent of the vehicles in the HOV lanes have only the current minimum of two people in the car.
The massive month-long Pan Am Games are expected to draw 250,000 visitors to Toronto and area.
The target for reducing non-Games-related traffic, Del Duca said, is based upon the experiences of multi-sport games elsewhere including the London and Vancouver Olympics. The plan relies largely on public awareness, but also things like the co-ordination of construction projects,
Del Duca said there will be a series of HOV lanes on Highways 401 and 427, the Queen Elizabeth Way/Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway/Highway 404 during the Pan Am Games and Parapan Am Games.
Del Duca said there is an effort to co-ordinate road and highway construction during the games “and that will help us achieve our targets as well.”
Source: The Hamilton Spectator
- 770 kilometres of temporary high occupancy lanes in and around Toronto during the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games will operate between June 29 and Aug. 19.
- 250,000 visitors and 10,000 athletes and official at 31 competition venues in a 10,000 square kilometre area around Southern Ontario.
- 20 minutes longer to travel along the Gardiner from the Don Valley to Highway 427 if the province’s goal of a 20 per cent reduction in traffic is not realized.
- 35 per cent of regular travellers during the summer Olympics changed their travel in way or another, Ontario bureaucrats say.
- Three or more people must ride in vehicles travelling on HOV lanes during the Pan Am Games and two or more during the Parapan Am Games.