HOT lanes more fizzle than sizzle, says industry

Item date: 
December 17, 2015
Item context: 

Transport Futures founder Martin Collier and RCCAO Executive Director Andy Manahan quoted extensively in this article.

By LINDSEY COLE 
 
Ontario's plan to implement High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on a section of the QEW this summer is a small step in the right direction, but the overall effectiveness of the pilot project isn't gaining any traction among some industry stakeholders.
HOT lanes more fizzle than sizzle, says industry. 
 
"I would view this as a very timid announcement or approach. It's definitely not a revenue generator," says Andy Manahan, executive director of the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario, who has been advocating for HOT lanes as a possible source of revenue for needed infrastructure as well as congestion relief.
 
"It'll help a little bit on congestion, and it might have a longer term goal of building a network, but because it's such a non-network approach to it, the possibility of failure, quite frankly, will be high."...
 
Ontario's QEW pilot could last up to four years and the results will be used to inform long-term planning for future HOT lanes, the province notes.
 
Manahan is quick to point out, however, that long-term plans are going to be hard to make based on the province's decision to go with a permit system rather than other forms of technology that would have been able to measure frequency of use, time of use, those wandering in and out of lanes, average speed and lane congestion.
 
"Aren't pilot projects designed to gather useful information? This sort of a pilot project, at least at this stage, is designed not to do that," he says. "The permit system will just be a fee that's paid. The problem with that is you won't get any real time data on usage, so to then implement a wider HOT lane network, you won't have the proper information to make informed decisions."...
 
The announcement of HOT lanes was highly anticipated, with many thinking these lanes would be implemented directly following the 2015 Pan Am Games, remarks Manahan. It seemed a natural fit since expanded HOV lane networks were already implemented across the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) to move athletes and spectators around faster during the events.
 
However, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) opted to wait until more information was brought forth from the Games' transportation planners and instead made the announcement on Dec. 7.
 
Martin Collier, founder of Ontario-based organization Transport Futures (TF), supports the government's efforts but states it's not "bold enough to make a difference."
 
"An overly cautious approach with only 16.5 kilometres over a four-year period could lead to underwhelming results. We cannot allow this pilot project to fail," he says in a statement, which also mentioned a HOT lanes forum that is being hosted by TF on Jan. 22, 2016 that will discuss aspects of "good HOT lane planning."
 
Collier states during the Pan Am Games the MTO temporarily installed 150 new three-plus occupant HOV lanes and suggests that at least 50 kilometres of HOT lanes be added by 2020.
 
"Because some existing HOV2 (two vehicle occupants) lanes may be close to capacity in rush hour, they could be modified to HOV3 (three vehicle occupants) in order to promote more carpooling and transit use which will further reduce congestion in these corridors," he explains.
 
"We recommend that the MTO implement a larger, more effective and connected HOT lane network across the GTHA."
 
Manahan shares Collier's views.
 
"The sweet spot would be kind of 50 to 100 kilometres and we end up with 16-and-a-half, and then maybe double that to around 31 or 32 in 2021, it's not a network," he says.