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Traffic piles up on the Gardiner Expressway as commuters head home during the evening rush hour in Toronto, Ont. March 14/2011. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Traffic piles up on the Gardiner Expressway as commuters head home during the evening rush hour in Toronto, Ont. March 14/2011. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Temporary carpool lanes coming for Toronto’s Pan Am Games Add to ...

Ontario will create a network of temporary high-occupancy lanes across the Toronto area for the Pan Am Games in the summer of 2015. The lanes will be used to ferry athletes, dignitaries and media between venues but will also be open to anyone carpooling, in hopes of taking more cars off the road to absorb the extra traffic the Games are expected to generate.

Courtesy of the Government of Ontario (Click image to enlarge)

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The reserved lanes are the centrepiece of the Pan Am transportation plan, estimated to cost between $75 and $90-million, announced Friday.

“These measures have the potential to reduce car traffic volumes by 20 per cent -- not only returning the travel time to predicted levels, we will also reduce our carbon footprint,” Culture Minister Michael Chan said at Queen’s Park.

The downtown streets with temporary carpooling lanes will be Jarvis Street south of Carlton and Lake Shore Boulevard between the Don Valley Parkway and Jameson Avenue. Several regional highways will also have HOV lanes added, including the DVP from downtown to Highway 407; Highway 401 from the DVP to Oshawa; the QEW to Hamilton and Highway 427 to Pearson Airport. The lanes are meant to connect the athletes’ village downtown with venues across the region and the international airport.

Unlike some international sporting events, where reserved lanes have been used exclusively for people taking part in the games, Ontario is opening the lanes up to every carpooler, in hopes more people will double up when driving around and cut the amount of traffic.

The transport plan also includes subsidies for local transit agencies to run more service during the Games. The province is also considering adding more train trips on the GO regional rail network it runs and setting up a shuttle service to ferry spectators to some of the more remote venues.

The Pan Am Games are spread across a wide area. Although they are centred on downtown Toronto, there are also venues in Hamilton, Welland, Milton and Oshawa.

The province also announced Friday that the athletes’ village, which is being constructed on a piece of former industrial land on the eastern edge of downtown, is 80 per cent complete. The area, which includes a series of mid-rise buildings, street-front store space, several parks and a new streetcar line, will become a mix of condos, social housing and student residences after the Games end.

In an update to the Games' security plans, the province announced it has awarded an $81-million contract to Contemporary Security Canada to provide 5,200 guards. The guards will do things such as checking credentials and searching bags, but will not carry weapons or have any policing powers. The Ontario Provincial Police will handle more serious matters during the Games.

The overall security budget has climbed to $239.6 million from the original estimate of $113 million. The increase, Mr. Chan said, was because the planned size of the Games has grown, with more venues added, as well as more days of competition.

The Pan Am organizing committee has found some savings in recent months, bringing its budget down to $1.39-billion, from just over $1.4-billion.

Progressive Conservative MPP Rod Jackson, the party’s Pan Am critic, slammed the province’s transportation plan as “naïve” and “unrealistic.” But pressed by reporters on what specifically he would do differently, Mr. Jackson would not say.

“Just depending on HOV lanes, that’s it, that’s the plan?” he said. “It’s something that has to come through a lot of planning and I’m not convinced they have that.”

NDP MPP Paul Miller echoed Mr. Jackson’s attacks, but also did not provide any transportation plan of his own: “Instead of an actual plan to move people around, we have a government that’s crossing its fingers,” he wrote in a statement.

Mr. Chan said the opposition, which frequently criticizes the government’s handling of the Games, is simply embarrassing the province.

“Premature speculation, unwarranted attacks and playing political games over the Pan Am Games only serves to damage these efforts and damage Ontario’s reputation,” he said.

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