Carpooling app BlancRide sees huge usage increase in Toronto thanks to Pan Am HOV lanes

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Traffic congestion on Greater Toronto Area highways has never been a bigger point of contention for drivers in the city.

Temporary HOV lanes, covering over 200 kilometres of the GTA’s major highways, went into effect this week ahead of the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. From June 29 to July 27, they’ll be open to vehicles with three or more occupants – creating serious traffic problems for solo commuters.

Less than a week into the Pan Am traffic changes, commuters are trying desperately to come up with ways to ease their traffic woes – including using apps to find enough passengers to use the HOV lanes.

Carpooling app BlancRide has seen a 300 per cent week-over-week increase in user registration around Toronto since the HOV lanes came into effect Monday.

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According to a company spokesperson, the number of ride requests in Toronto has quadrupled during that same week-over-week period.

BlancRide – available for both iPhone and Android devices – allows passengers to set a desired pick-up and drop-off location, including the desired time and their time flexibility. The app will then find a “match” based on other drivers in the area.

Once the app finds you a ride, you will be able to see the profile and rating of the driver. Both the driver and the passenger will need to accept the ride before going anywhere.

READ MORE: Tackling Pan Am Games traffic – HOV lanes, free public transit with game ticket

But unlike old-school carpooling, the driver isn’t forced to awkwardly ask for gas money. BlancRide charges the passenger’s credit card based on the mileage of the trip and the average cost of the ride per kilometer.

Unlike ride-sharing taxi apps like Uber, the app isn’t designed to be profitable for the driver – it’s designed to split the cost of the ride.

READ MORE: Is UberPOOL coming to Toronto?

And for drivers, the tip comes in the form of getting to use the HOV lanes.

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“There’s certainly an appetite on the driver side to use the HOV lanes,” said BlancRide spokesperson Hannah Papernick.

“Similarly, passengers are beginning to understand that carpooling presents a convenient and efficient way of getting to their destination without having to sit in traffic.”

A number of traffic lane changes will come into effect – including parking restrictions and turning bans – in Toronto during the Pan Am Games, which run from from July 10 to July 26.5. The Parapan Am Games will follow from August 7 to 15.

A full list of local traffic plans can be found here.

HOV lane restrictions:

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