Some brought their kids downtown just to fill the back seats. Others tried to incite rebellion, calling on fellow solo drivers to use the new high occupancy vehicle lanes en masse.
On the second day after the HOV lanes came into force in Southern Ontario – an attempt to reduce traffic heading into the Pan American Games – drivers were already scheming to find ways around the new restrictions.
Over time, however, many of those drivers will settle into a new carpooling or transit routine, evidence from other cities suggests.
And regional police have a simple message: Deal with it.
"This is the plan we've got," York Regional Police Staff Sergeant Dave Mitchell said at a news conference Tuesday. "Is it perfect? It's not, but we're asking for people to adapt. It's here, and this is what we have to live with."
New lanes mean the HOV network comprises 235 kilometres of roads, and private vehicles using them must now carry three people instead of the usual two. The new rules will apply for the duration of the Pan Am Games, which end July 26.
There were signs that drivers had already begun to adapt after Monday's gridlock. After 12 collisions during the Monday-morning commute – many more than normal – Tuesday morning saw just one collision and one hazard, said Detective Sergeant Devin Kealey of the Toronto police.
"Both London and Vancouver, when they first had their games start up, they experienced some difficulties as well," he said. "But as you can see, the drivers of Toronto are already adjusting."
They also tested the rules. Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Kerry Schmidt said many of the single drivers caught in the HOV lanes knew what they were doing and were hoping to get away with it.
Others may have escaped police detection by using fake carpoolers. Nizar Omrani, the owner of mannequin store Ideal Displays, said he sold 20 models in the past week and a half, "specifically for people who wanted to put them one in the front seat, one in the back seat.
"They were requesting sitting mannequins – realistic-looking ones, with wigs," he said.
"I know it's illegal, but I'm not a police officer."
Katherine Good is open to real carpooling. She found passengers last summer to split her $530 monthly cost of commuting from Oshawa to Bay Street. But when she posted an ad on Monday looking for riders, no one responded. She is charging about $8 each way, and the GO train from Oshawa costs $10.25, so it should be a "win-win," she said.
GO train ridership numbers won't be available until next week, said Anne Marie Aikins, a spokeswoman for Metrolinx. But it's clear that commuter buses, which use the HOV lanes and are "faster than they've ever been," have been busy this week, she said.
Drivers have shown flexibility when faced with a sudden restriction, including a dramatic bump in gas prices, said Ron Buliung, a geography professor at the University of Toronto who studies urban transportation. However, changing consumer behaviour is a long-term process, he said. In cities with strict HOV lanes, including Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, drivers did adapt, and some began doing informal carpooling with strangers.
In Toronto, said Dr. Buliung, efforts to boost carpooling have worked best when employers have gotten involved and have provided backup options, including emergency rides home when carpools fall through at the last minute.
According to the 2011 census, 65 per cent of Ontario commuters typically drive to work alone, while only 7 per cent regularly have passengers. Twenty-one per cent of Ontarians use a bus, train or another form of transportation.
"There's no question that there's a period of disruption that's very painful," said Dr. Buliung. "We have this fascinating opportunity here to try something on that we wouldn't have done otherwise, because for some reason the political will was there to throw this together for the sporting event."