What horror awaits Toronto-area drivers during the Pan Am and Parapan American Games? What sort of congestion can be expected on roads that are already jammed?
If the Ontario Ministry of Transportation gets its wish, 20 per cent of regular commuters will forsake their vehicles during peak periods to help ease the influx of an anticipated 250,000 visitors and 10,000 athletes and officials.
To put the games activities into perspective, 1.4 million tickets are available for more than 300 events to be held at more than 30 venues spread across 16 municipalities.
The ministry, lead transportation partner in a co-ordinated web of mobility and security, is advertising on subways, TV and radio, warning motorists not to drive during the games. Andrew Posluns, executive director of the its Pan/Parapan Am Games branch, says the goal is to keep traffic moving with temporary traffic measures.
"One message we try to give to people: it's never too late to start planning ahead," Posluns says. "We're encouraging people to change their habits."
About 235 kilometres of temporary high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes are being designated on Highway 401, Highway 404, the Queen Elizabeth Way, Don Valley Parkway, Gardiner Expressway and elsewhere across the Games Route Network, which links the athletes' village, games venues and Pearson International Airport. Signs and pavement markings are being implemented on routes where general purpose lanes are converted to HOV lanes.
Beginning June 29, HOV lanes will be restricted to vehicles carrying three or more passengers, taxis, transit buses and official Pan Am traffic. From July 28 through Aug. 18, the lanes will be open to motor vehicles with two or more occupants.
Electric vehicles with green licence plates will also be permitted to travel in HOV lanes on provincial highways only. The OPP will monitor and enforce the HOV regulation with a $110 fine plus three demerit points.
Additionally, turning bans and parking restrictions will be implemented and enforced in some high-traffic areas.
For up-to-the minute updates and trip planning, motorists are advised to visit 2015gamestripplanner.ca. An app providing real-time traffic information, road closures, restrictions and route options is available for iPhone, Blackberry and Android. Drivers can select specific display info, create personalized routes and set e-mail or SMS alerts to receive traffic condition changes as they are reported.
Drivers can also report traffic and road conditions – such as construction and collisions – via the app.
Traffic modelling was used to predict games-time conditions to help determine routes and measures that will provide reliable travel for athletes and officials, while minimizing the impact to local drivers. Planners for the London and Vancouver Olympics, and Glasgow Commonwealth Games were consulted for best-practice advice. Unlike Toronto, in London and Vancouver HOV lanes were not open to the general public.
The temporary HOV lanes will be enforced from 5 a.m. through 11 p.m. Carpooling, telecommuting, walking and cycling are encouraged.
With limited parking and predicted roadway congestion, public transit is being promoted as the best option for games' spectators, with additional GO Transit service and buses in many municipalities. A Pan Am event ticket provides free transit travel on the day of the event.
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