Slugging it out

With the PanAm games more than half over, what will be the legacy beyond a few new buildings and some additional housing on the waterfront? Why not take this opportunity to change forever the traffic patterns that have been clogging Toronto by making permanent the temporary HOV lanes?

Toronto must be one of the last major cities in North America without HOV lanes. Now that drivers have had to deal with them on the Don Valley Parkway, Gardiner and Queen Elizabeth Way, let’s continue HOV and press on with forced driver retraining. Otherwise, traffic woes will only get worse.

For me it doesn’t matter whether there’s HOV or not. I take the TTC nine times out of ten when I go downtown. But I pay a fare. Just because governments built the subway doesn’t mean I get to ride for free. Why should drivers travel for free on roads built with public money? Why not combine HOV and tolls? There’s at least one current private-sector proposal to build an HOV toll lane. During the Rob Ford administration another private-sector group floated a $5 billion offer to acquire the DVP and Gardiner and turn them into toll roads that the buying group would maintain. Imagine the infrastructure that could be built by the city with that kind of windfall.

HOV lanes demonstrably work because people want them. In Washington DC, for example, there are organized pickup points where a driver can collect two passengers so they can all travel the HOV lanes. The riders are called “slugs” and one such spot is on New York Avenue at 15th St. N.W., a block from the White House. On weekdays, there are two lines of people along the wall of the Sun Trust building looking for rides to the north Virginia suburbs. Starting about 4 p.m. and continuing to 5:30 p.m., drivers pull up to the curb where there’s one queue of people going to the drop-off point at Horner, another queue wanting to go to Old Hechinger’s. Two people climb in and away they go. No money changes hands. Everybody gets to their destination more quickly, twenty minutes instead of an hour in the non-HOV lanes. There are other slug pickup locations at the Pentagon, Commerce and L’Enfant Plaza.

We could use a little such up-from-the-streets imagination here.

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