Highway 407 saves commuters 26 minutes a day: study

West bound sign near Oakville on toll highway 407 ETR on Nov. 3, 2009.
West bound sign near Oakville on toll highway 407 ETR on Nov. 3, 2009. Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images

TORONTO – Commuters in the Toronto and Hamilton area who have a lengthy time navigating the highways every morning and afternoon rush hours may want to choose Ontario’s 407 Express Toll Route (ETR) instead, but at a steeper price.

A new study by the Conference Board of Canada indicates commuters can save 26 minutes a day on average by using the privately owned and operated highway.

“Commuters are willing to pay direct charges for road use if they perceive benefits,” said Vijay Gill, Director, Policy Research in a media release. “A shorter commute is the most obvious benefit, but motorists may also appreciate more predictable travel times and a higher likelihood of avoiding stop-and-start traffic.”

However, a long-standing complaint from drivers and commercial truckers is the high cost of using the toll highway.

The current rates for cars using the existing 407 range from 19 cents per kilometre during evenings and weekends to 27 cents during prime hours, making a trip from Burlington to Richmond Hill cost upwards of $21 for a one-way trip.

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The rate jumps to 54.40 cents per kilometre for trucks and 81.60 cents for tractor-trailers during peak hours, making it difficult for companies to do business.

“No one doubts the time-savings benefits of using the 407, but when the cost of using the highway overshadows the time saved and eats substantially into a trucking companies profit, you predictably get what we have today – nearly all the trucks using the 401 or QEW and very few on the 407,” said Stephen Laskowski, vice-president of the Ontario Trucking Association.

The reports reveals that workers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) spend about 66 minutes a day commuting, the longest average times in Canada.

Close to 30 per cent of these workers face commute times of 90 or more minutes a day.

The study says time savings are usually better in the afternoon peak hours compared to the morning hours.

“The more interesting study would be to determine what is the toll rate that would attract trucking companies to the 407 in order to take advantage of these time savings and shift traffic away from the congested 401/QEW,” said Laskowski. “As of today, the 407 is pricing  itself out of the commercial trucking market.”

The findings were based on data collected through GPS information from TomTom, cellular networks and a field study from volunteer motorists who had their vehicles equipped with on-board diagnostic machines.

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The 407 ETR is a 107.2 kilometre stretch of road that runs from Highway 403 and the Queen Elizabeth Way in Burlington to the west and ends at Highway 7 in Pickering to the east.

The reports says the potential benefits from less-congested traffic include reduced fuel consumption, lower vehicle maintenance costs and a better quality of life with less time spend on the roads.

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