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Boats eyed as Pan Am transit

Every idea is on the table for keeping athletes on the move

By David Rider
Urban Affairs Bureau Chief

Options for quickly ferrying tens of thousands of people around the gridlock-prone Golden Horseshoe during the 2015 Pan Am Games include special road lanes, GO Transit, VIA Rail and even boats.

Roger Garland, chair of the Pan Am organizing committee, made the comments in a conference-call update about preparation for the Games, expected to attract 250,000 visitors from 42 countries.

“It’s fair to say that everything’s on the table at this point, from dedicated lanes for cars and buses to the use of GO and Via Rail from destination to destination,” Garland said.

“There’s even some thought of perhaps having boat access to some of the venues because we’re sitting right on (Lake Ontario) and a lot of venues are on or close to the lake.”

Fresh from a fact-finding trip to the Vancouver Olympics, Garland and Ian Troop, the organizing committee’s chief executive — and, at the moment, sole employee — said they witnessed some initial transit problems that were quickly sorted out.

Moving athletes, officials and spectators between venues in 17 municipalities — from St. Catharines to Barrie to Oshawa — without severely disrupting regular traffic is expected to be the organizers’ biggest challenge.

Leslie Woo, vice-president of policy and planning at Metrolinx, said the provincial transit agency will work closely with Pan Am organizers to make sure GO Transit and four new light-rapid transit lines across Toronto mesh to move the people. The province has also promised the long-delayed rail link between Pearson airport and Union Station will be ready in time for the Games.

The Toronto Port Authority hopes to have a “fairly significant” role in any waterborne component of the plan, said TPA chief executive Geoff Wilson.

He noted the cruise terminal at the foot of Cherry St. built for the now-defunct ferry service to Rochester, N.Y., can handle more than 1,500 people an hour and accommodate small and large vessels.

Pan Am organizers should learn Friday if University of Toronto Scarborough students voted in favour of a fee hike to raise $22 million toward a new $140 million athletic centre that would be the Pan Am swimming centre.

Asked if he has a backup plan if the students vote no, Garland said he is confident that won’t be the case and, “I’m not really entertaining any other options.”