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Prepare for the gridlock Pan Am Games: traffic plans include expanded HOV lanes

In advance of Pan Am Games, residents and businesses are being told to prepare for lane closures, parking and turn restrictions.
Nov. 24, 2014
By Tess Kalinowski

Fighting traffic could be the unofficial sport of the 2015 Pan Am Games with residents and businesses already being warned to start looking at their transportation options next summer.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation unveiled its $61 million Pan Am Games transportation plan on Monday.

As part of a 1,500-km Games Route Network, the plan includes 235 kilometres of temporary HOV lanes on Highways 427, 404 and 401, the QEW, the Don Valley Parkway, Gardiner Expressway, Lakeshore Blvd. and Jane St.

The public will be allowed to use the lanes designed to move athletes, officials and media to the 30 Pan Am venues, but only if there are at least three occupants per vehicle.

The existing HOV lanes, which will be incorporated in the Games network, have a two-person minimum.

In effect from 5 a.m. to midnight, the HOV lanes will operate from June 29 to Aug. 18, 2015. They’re being instituted in advance of the July 10 Pan Am opening ceremony to allow the public to get used to them.

In addition to carpooling opportunities, transportation officials are promising beefed-up transit, cycling and walking routes and a full-out communications offensive to help avert traffic chaos.

Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca admitted the plan was being released seven months in advance to help persuade residents and businesses to minimize their road use during the Games by employing flexible work hours and stockpiling supplies.

Ontario Games officials have drawn on the experience of organizers of other major events such as the Vancouver Olympics to create a plan that will keep the region moving, said Del Duca.

“People living in this region will have a chance to understand what the options are available to them, will have a chance to adjust their schedules, perhaps have that conversation with their employers about flexible work hours,” he said.

Although the impact of the Games plan has been tested on computers, Del Duca would not say what kind of additional commute time residents will need next summer.

Tickets to events will include the cost of a return transit trip to the ve nue and, in some cases, transit hours and service will be extended.

Some venues will have little or no parking, officials warned. In some cases, shuttles will carry spectators from off-site parking lots.

A trip planner app is being developed to help commuters and spectators choose a route and monitor traffic conditions.

Para-transit users will be able to book a trip to any of the Games venues using a single phone number and, for the first time, spectators will be able to book an accessible parking spot in advance.

Expected to draw 7,500 athletes, 23,000 volunteers, 4,000 members of the media and 1.4-million spectators, the Pan Am Games take place from July 10 to 26. The Parapan American Games are Aug. 7 to 14.

Toronto mayor-elect John Tory said he will be emphasizing the need to keep the city moving during the Pan Am Games.

“We want the Pan Am Games to be a success in every single way, but we also have to carry on business in the city, people have to carry on with their lives, and that whatever the plans are, they’re certainly going to have to be passed by me, as the mayor-to-be, and I would think by other public officials, to make sure that we’re not grinding the city to a halt. So I would love (to have) that kind of balance in the plan,” he said.