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‘No plans’ to keep temporary HOV lanes after Pan Am Games: ministry

WATCH: A new poll suggests drivers may be warming up to the idea of keeping HOV lanes put in place for the Pan Am Games but the province and city say there’s no plans – yet. Mark McAllister reports

TORONTO – Temporary high-occupancy lanes installed for the Toronto Pan Am and Parapan Am Games will be removed after the competition is over.

A statement to Global News from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation said the province has “no plans to keep any of the temporary HOV lanes in place after the Games.”

However, the ministry said data collected from HOV usage “will be used to inform long term planning” for future highway expansion projects.

“HOV lanes are not included in projects where the highway is not being widened,” said the ministry.

Unlike provincial highways though, the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway are owned by the City of Toronto — which leaves open the possibility they could remain a permanent fixture there.

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The temporary lanes are due to disappear next month after the completion of the Games.

The province’s position comes after a new poll released by Forum Research found that traffic disruptions around the city have been overblown.

More than half of those surveyed (62 per cent) said the added traffic has not disrupted their daily life while 38 per cent said that it did.

The poll also found that 30 per cent of respondents would like the HOV lanes to be made permanent, while 57 per cent would not, and 14 per cent didn’t know.

READ MORE: Toronto police bust ‘dummy’ driver for using mannequins in HOV lanes

The controversial lanes have been the centre of attention throughout the Games with many motorists complaining about the traffic congestion.

Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford even admitted last week that he has broken the law by driving in the lanes alone.

Still, the lane restrictions have similarly sparked an increase in ride-sharing with the introduction of services like UberPool and BlancRide.

Meanwhile, carpooling advocates hope the HOV lanes will help ignite a conversation on how to change people’s driving habits.

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READ MORE: UberPOOL launches in Toronto for Pan Am Games

“I think what people are realizing is that for a lot of folks, there is a benefit,” said U of T Associate Professor in Dept. of Geography and Planning Matti Siemiatycki.

Siemiatycki believes pilot projects and the piloting approach has been really effective in transportation policy.

“What we’ve seen elsewhere is that by putting things in place, over a short period of time and arguing that, ‘This is really a trial. It will be removed,’  that there is a benefit in that,” he said.

“We’ve had a traffic problem here for a long time. This on its own is not going to solve it. But I think it’s opening the people’s eyes that there are potential solutions here if we’re willing to make the steps and hard decision to put in place.”

Vehicles are currently permitted to drive in the HOV lanes with three or more occupants. It will then be changed to two or more during the Parapan Am Games from August 7 to 15.

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