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Ontario may add bus lanes to highways

Bid to ease congestion

Tom Blackwell
National Post
Wednesday, June 12, 2002

The Ontario government has begun looking seriously at the idea of putting transit corridors - bus lanes or light rapid-transit lines - along its multi-lane freeways to curb congestion and urban sprawl.

It could be the first large-scale effort in Canada to improve mass transit by using highways - the epitome of the North American car culture.

The province called this week for consultants to prepare a feasibility study on adding transit lanes to existing and future expressways.

“It’s hard to find linear corridors now because of all the development, and the highways are obviously there and they obviously lead to places that people want to go to,” said Bill Parrish, spokesman for Norm Sterling, Ontario’s Transportation Minister.

It is too early to say when any of the ideas might be implemented, he said.

Transportation experts say the concept has some potential to boost the effectiveness of public transit. But they warn its usefulness could be limited by factors such as the location of many freeways away from the large concentration of homes and offices.

The government is asking for a study that would look at the physical challenges and cost of adding transit services to existing limited access, multi-lane roads. The transit possibilities could include bus lanes, light rapid transit lines or “high occupancy vehicles” - otherwise know as car pools. Adding transit corridors to future roads may also be considered.

The focus of the work is the Golden Horseshoe area - the most populous part of the province, stretching from east of Toronto west to the Niagara peninsula.

The idea has been tried on a small scale in Ottawa, which has some bus lanes along the Queensway multi-lane road, as well as in Chicago and Washington state, said Harry Gow of the consumer group Transport 2000.

But it presents some considerable logistical challenges, such as how to transfer people safely from buses or other vehicles on to a super-highway transit line, he said.

“It sounds like a panacea, but it is really a solution looking for a problem in some cases,” he said.





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