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Pan Am Games co-ordinates cross-agency traffic team

Roads, transit, games, city and police officials will all have an eye on the roads from Ontario's new $25 million transportation management centre.
June 24, 2015
By Tess Kalinowski

On an average day there are about 100 incidents snarling traffic on the provincial highways around Toronto. Transportation officials admit there's no way to prevent all of those when the Pan Am Games attract another 250,000 people to the region this summer.

Clearing those roadblocks more quickly is possible, however, when all the major transportation players can see and react to those traffic events playing out on the giant wall of screens in the new provincial COMPASS Transportation Management Centre near Finch Ave. and Highway 400.

Ministry officials showed off the high-tech traffic headquarters on Wednesday in advance of the Pan Am road restrictions that take effect Monday. Many major provincial routes, plus some municipal roads, including the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway - 235 km in all - will have temporary high-occupancy vehicle lanes - requiring three or more people per vehicle - in effect from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m..

The rules around using the new HOV lanes will be vigorously enforced with extra police surveillance, said OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, who was at the Unified Transportation Co-ordination Centre.

The room, upstairs at the traffic management centre - overlooking screens displaying roadside camera images, maps and even weather conditions - is where police, transit, roads and Games officials will jointly monitor the traffic during the events.

HOV rule breakers won't necessarily save time when they are subject to a traffic stop, warned Schmidt. "Depending on the outcome (of an investigation) they may be charged. They're subject to a penalty, a ticket (and) $110 fine with three demerit points upon conviction."

Ministry and Games officials are stressing the need to carpool, use transit and travel outside rush hours as much as possible during the Games.

The worst delays will be about seven minutes on the busiest routes at the busiest times - about the equivalent of regular rush-hour traffic on a major route, said Andrew Posluns, executive director, Pan/Parapan Am Games branch, of the transportation ministry.

"Delays will vary," he said. But, "In many cases, it's minimal."

The delay projections are based on the busiest day of the games - Day 11, on July 21 - on the busiest routes, said Posluns.

But even when incidents threaten to block traffic, the response should also be quicker than normal, he said.

"We will be, simultaneously and instantly, all be aware of the situation. We'll be able to react in a very quick manner to deploy resources we have in place to try to resolve the incident as quickly as possible," said Posluns.

The $61 million Games plan is built on the expectation that there will be 20 per cent fewer drivers competing for the roads needed to transport athletes, officials and spectators, while still keeping the Toronto area in business.