Officials unveil Pan Am Games transportation plan

Temporary high-occupancy lanes, extended transit hours and shuttle buses are part of the Ontario government's $61-million plan to ferry thousands of athletes and spectators to and from events during next year's Pan Am and Parapan Games.

Shuttle buses, extended transit hours and temporary HOV lanes all part of the plan

Ontario's plan to fight gridlock as it ferries around thousands of athletes and spectators for next year's Pan Am and Parapan Games calls for temporary high-occupancy lanes, extended transit hours and shuttle buses — and for residents in the Toronto area to leave their cars behind.

The $61-million plan includes a 1,500-kilometre route linking venues, airports and the athletes' village as well as roughly 185 kilometres of new, temporary high-occupancy lanes on major highways and thoroughfares in the GTA. The lanes will be open to Games vehicles, media, emergency vehicles, electric vehicles, public transit, taxis and cars carrying more than three people.

Transit capacity will also be increased, service hours prolonged for certain events and new direct connections added, the government said in unveiling the plan Monday. Event tickets will include the cost of transit, it said.

However, the plan also places part of the onus on residents, businesses and spectators to minimize congestion by carpooling, avoiding rush hour and cycling or walking to work.

'Plan ahead' for start of Games

Ontario's transportation minister couldn't say how much longer the average commute would be as a result of the Games but stressed he believes the plan will help everyone get around safely and efficiently.

"It's always really important to plan ahead, for people to look at the routes they're going to be driving on or travelling on, for them to be prepared for the possibility that there may be challenges along the way," Steven Del Duca said.

But he insisted the plan will help "keep our region moving" despite the massive crowds pouring into the area.

Some 7,500 athletes, 1.4 million spectators and thousands of volunteers are expected for the Games in July and August.

The province is launching a route-planning app for phones and computers to show people how to best get to the 30 Pan Am and 12 Parapan venues and inform them of real-time traffic conditions.

Temporary traffic measures such as parking restrictions and road closures will also be put in place near the venues. Officials said they are working with developers to limit the amount of construction going on during the Games.

Efforts are also being made to ensure accessible transportation to events.

Organizers are expecting to sell about 1.5 million tickets that would raise about $40 million. The lion's share of the Games' $2.5-billion budget will come from the federal, provincial and Toronto governments.

The Pan Am Games will run from July 7 to 26 at 31 competition venues stretching from the Niagara Region in the south to as far north as Orillia. There are also 13 training and 15 non-competition venues.

The Parapan Am Games will run from Aug. 7 to 15.