Ontario's HOT Lanes Plan a start but not bold enough to make a difference

Item date: 
December 8, 2015
Item context: 

Transport Futures released its response to the Liberal's HOT Lanes Plan today.  We believe the approach being taken is far too timid but are hopeful that our HOT Lanes Forum on January 22nd will bolster the government's resolve to be more bold.

GUELPH, December 8, 2015 – Having facilitated Canada’s only continuous mobility pricing conversation since 2008, Transport Futures (TF) congratulates the Ontario Government on the release of its High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes Plan but has reservations about its overall effectiveness.
 
“For many years we have called for pilot projects so Ontario drivers could experience the benefits of mobility pricing”, said TF founder Martin Collier. “We therefore support plans to install HOT Lanes but are concerned that the government is not being bold enough during this pilot phase.”
 
Experts from the US Federal Highway Administration, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Puget Sound Regional Council (Seattle), Atlanta Regional Commission and the University of Minnesota have shared their extensive research and practical experience at TF learning events. HOT Lanes can more effectively reduce congestion and generate revenue when used on an existing network of roads with dynamic pricing – not on short isolated segments (which are installed years apart) with a flat permit fee.
 
“We understand that gaining public acceptance for HOT Lanes is critical”, Collier said. “But a cautious approach with only 16.5 kilometres over a 4-year period could result in underwhelming evidence.  We cannot allow this pilot project to fail.”
 
During July’s Pan Am Games, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) temporarily installed 150 new 3+ High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes so Collier suggests that at least 50 kilometres of HOT Lanes be added by 2020.  Because some existing HOV2 lanes may be close to capacity in rush hour, they could be modified to HOV3 in order to promote more carpooling and transit use which will further reduce congestion in these corridors.
 
“If the government is serious about improving traffic flow for cars and transit while reducing automotive emissions causing climate change and smog, we must think big.  We recommend that the MTO implement a larger, more effective and connected HOT Lane network across the GTHA. We also encourage the Province and municipalities to work collaboratively to establish HOT lanes or other toll systems on local roads where feasible."
 
In order to provide timely advice to all orders of government, TF is staging a January 22 HOT Lanes Forum which will address all aspects of good HOT lane planning, including: benefits and costs; equity and public acceptance; infrastructure, technology and systems procurement and design; governance and legislation; communication strategies and politics.  
 
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For further information, please contact

Martin Collier
Director, Healthy Transport Consulting
Founder, Transport Futures