The first high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes have opened in Canada, providing a new travel option for commuters in Ontario that will improve traffic flow, maximize highway capacity and help manage congestion.
The province of Ontario has opened HOT lanes on 10.2 miles (16.5km) of the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) in both directions, from Trafalgar Road in Oakville to Guelph Line in Burlington. Vehicles with two or more occupants can travel in the lanes for free, and drivers of single-occupant vehicles can apply to purchase a permit. In August, Ontario received more than 3,400 applications for the new HOT lanes permits. A random draw was used to allocate 500 permits for the first term of the program, which runs from September 15 to December 31, 2016. Permit applications and renewals for the next term, January 1 to March 31, 2017, will open on November 1. The HOT lanes pilot project will run for up to four years and will support the planning of a more efficient highway network.
As part of the pilot program, Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation has issued a request for information (RFI) for innovative technologies to support tolling, compliance and performance monitoring of HOT lanes. The RFI supports Ontario’s innovation sector by providing an opportunity to test emerging traffic management and tolling technologies. Ontario is making the largest investment in public infrastructure in the province’s history: about C$160bn (US$121bn) over 12 years, which is supporting 110,000 jobs every year across the province, with projects such as hospitals, schools, roads, bridges and transit. Since 2015, the province has announced support for more than 475 projects that will keep people and goods moving, connect communities and improve quality of life.
The new HOT lanes can be used by: vehicles with a HOT permit; vehicles with two or more occupants; buses; plug-in hybrid or battery-electric vehicles with green license plates; emergency vehicles; and licensed taxis and airport limousines. To assist the Ontario Provincial Police with enforcement, two permits will need to be affixed to the vehicle: one inside on the left-hand side of the front windshield, and the second outside the vehicle on the right-hand side of the rear windshield. The QEW was selected for the pilot because, of the three existing HOV lanes in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, it has the most capacity available during peak traffic hours and will provide travel benefits in both directions throughout the day. A further 9.6 miles (15.5km) of dedicated HOT lanes will open in 2021 on Highway 427, with electronic tolling in both directions from south of Highway 409 to north of Rutherford Road.
Steven Del Duca, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation (pictured), said, “People who live and work across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area want less traffic congestion. With HOT lanes, Ontario is taking action and giving commuters a new option, in addition to transit and HOV lanes, to help keep the region moving.”