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Government limiting sale of HOT lane permits to avoid congestion

Last Updated Nov 21, 2017 at 7:24 pm EST

The flow of traffic is more important than the flow of cash.

That’s how the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) explained why more than a year into its four-year HOT lane pilot project, it continues to undersell its own initial projections.

When the initiative was announced, the government said 1,000 permits would be available each three-month term at a cost of $180. A permit would allow solo drivers to hop into the carpool lanes for a quicker commute.

But after five terms the government continues to sell less than the 1,000 permits it initially said would be available — and for good reason according to the MTO’s Bob Nichols.

In an email to CityNews, Nichols said the original projections would have likely created more congestion.

“Originally we thought our hypothetical maximum capacity may be 1000 permits, however this is something we continue to study as we learn about and monitor network impacts.”

With that in mind, the MTO lowered its projections, saying it sold 500 permits in the first term, and around 700-800 in subsequent terms.

“We committed that in subsequent terms, the number of permits to be offered would be based on the speeds and volumes of traffic in the HOT lanes during each term.”

“The objective is to maximize the number of permits issued while maintaining good travel times in the HOT lanes.”

Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, says so far, they’ve achieved that objective.

“Drivers are saving about 10 minutes per trip during peak times by using the HOT lanes compared to the general purpose lanes,” he said in a statement to CityNews. “We deploy permits as we go (because) we want to make sure that we do not inadvertently clog the HOT lanes …”

The pilot project saw the existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes between Trafalgar Road in Oakville and Guelph Line in Burlington designated as HOT lanes.

Drivers with two or more occupants are able to use the lanes without a permit.

The goal is to eventually have a network of HOT lanes across the region to help relieve congestion.

The province hopes to launch a 15.5-kilometre stretch of dedicated HOT lanes with electronic tolling on Highway 427, from south of Highway 409 to north of Rutherford Road, in 2021.