As the 2015 Pan Am Games approach, Toronto-area police are preparing for the expected increase in traffic with a series of specialty lanes.

Earlier this year, Pan Am officials asked Ontario commuters to "do their part" to reduce congestionduring the games by choosing transit and carpooling to keep delays at a minimum. Officials estimated that the only way to prevent further traffic delays during the Games is to cut commuter traffic by 20 per cent.

If the 20 per cent reduction isn't met, most commutes will increase between five and 20 minutes, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said.

In addition to the increase in vehicles, commuters may experience delays due to a series of traffic measures being rolled out at the end of June. On some of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area’s busiest highways, one lane will be converted to a temporary High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane. The move is meant to help athletes and officials get to and from events, while encouraging carpooling with the slight advantage of a specialty lane.

The current HOV policy in Ontario is that vehicles using the lanes must have at least two occupants. During the period of June 29 to July 27, police have increased the minimum to three occupants in all vehicles making use of the HOV lanes.

Temporary HOV lanes will be open to:

  • Accredited Games vehicles used to transport athletes, officials, media, etc. (vehicles had to be registered with Pan Am officials in December, and must display a pass issued by the Pan Am organizers)
  • Vehicles with three or more occupants (from June 29 to July 27)
  • Vehicles with two or more occupants (from July 28 to Aug. 18)
  • Emergency vehicles
  • Public transit
  • Licensed taxis and limousines
  • Electric vehicles with green licence plates

The HOV lanes will operate from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, and will be clearly marked with signs and pavement markings.

The lanes will be located along Highways 401, 404 and 427, the Don Valley Parkway, the Gardiner Expressway, the Queen Elizabeth Way, Lake Shore Boulevard and Jane Street north of Steeles Avenue.

A detailed map is available online.

HOV lanes map

The penalty for improper HOV lane usage is a $110 fine and three demerit points.

Travel tips

The Ontario government provides the following tips for reducing your commute during the Pan Am Games:

  • Take public transit
  • Plan your route ahead of time
  • Try carpooling
  • Walk or cycle
  • Ask your employer about changing your schedule or working from home

Those planning to be in the GTHA during the Games are also advised to read through a series of temporary local traffic changes, including parking restrictions and turning bans, which vary by city.

Organizers warn that there will be no parking at Pan Am venues, but those with event tickets can ride public transit for free.