If you take the highway in the GTA, you’ll be pleased (or not) to know that Ontario’s new commuter-friendly and congestion-reducing lanes are operating full steam ahead.
There’s a small catch for some drivers – single-occupant vehicles have to pay to use the lanes.
The pilot High-Occupancy Toll Lanes (HOT) lanes are on 16.5 kilometres of the QEW in both directions, from Trafalgar Road in Oakville to Guelph Line in Burlington.
Vehicles with two or more people, buses, emergency vehicles, licensed taxis, airport limousines, and vehicles with green license plates can travel in the lanes for free, while drivers of single-occupant vehicles can apply to purchase a permit.
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The next round of permit applications and renewals is now open until August 31, 2017 for permits valid from October 1 through December 31, 2017.
According to the province, research suggests that commuters who use the general purpose lanes could save 10 minutes on their commute times during peak hours by using the HOT lanes.
Permits cost $180 and are renewable for a maximum of two terms of three-months each. The province says this will allow for a fair allotment of permits during the pilot.
Only 1,000 HOT permits will be available for each three-month term, distributed on the basis of a draw. If an applicant is not successful in the draw, they can enter a future draw over the duration of the HOT lanes pilot project, which is expected to last two to four years.
Permit holders wishing to renew who have already renewed twice will have to re-enter the application draw.
Ontario is also including HOT lanes provisions in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area highway expansion projects currently in design or under construction, beginning with Highways 410 and 427.
“Research has shown that our QEW HOT lanes are working effectively and the pilot continues to save drivers’ time in their daily commutes. The results of the pilot are helping us build a more comprehensive network of High Occupancy Vehicle and HOT lanes across the region, when and where it makes sense to do so,” said minister of transportation Steven Del Duca.
The province hopes that HOT lanes will complement other congestion reducing initiatives, including GO Regional Express Rail that will increase GO train trips by 50 percent over the next five years with more stops serving more communities.
Permit applications will be accepted each February, May, August and November and can be submitted here.
For more information on the pilot project, click here.