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Toronto-Area HOV Lanes Can Work

The Province of Ontario has built, and will soon open, high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on highways 403 and 404. In theory, these lanes should allow carpoolers (and anyone else with 2 people in the car) to jump ahead past congestion in a lane reserved for them.

Until yesterday I was fairly cynical about how effective these lanes would be. It's natural for a Torontonian to not expect much from these lanes. Just look at the irrelevant special lanes to be found on King Street, Bay Street and elsewhere. They are ignored, uninforced, and make no difference whatsoever.

However, yesterday's experience makes me think that they can, in fact work.

I'm in BC right now, and drove yesterday just before rush hour from Vancouver to Abbotsford on the Trans-Canada Highway. The first two lanes were full of stop-and-go traffic. We had two people in the car and went into the HOV lane when it began somewhere around Burnaby. And, for the next while we were flying past the slow-moving vehicles in the other lanes. It really helped us a lot.

I had expected that in a congestion situation, everyone would just break the rules and the HOV lane would slow down to the speed of everyone else. Maybe British Columbians are very obedient, but they just weren't doing that. It means that HOV lanes can offer a real speed advantage... and this should eventually create some incentives to behaviours that reduce congestion.

If the lanes on the 403 and 404 turn out the be a success, the Province may consider converting an existing lane of the 401 into an HOV lane.

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