At the end of last week Ontario announced that it was launching Canada's first High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. While the jury is still out on if it is good to be the first to add more taxes, at least the government is trying something new. And trying something new cautiously. The pilot project will start on September 15, 2016 along the existing High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes on the QEW. For those who use the HOV lanes right now, nothing should change. There may be more police enforcement early on to deter people from trying to take advantage of a new system, and some new signage but that should be it. Access for all vehicles which qualified for the HOV lanes will continue to be granted in the HOT lanes. Before HOV users start worrying about how slow the lanes will be with toll users entering only 1,000 permits will be available. Presumably this will increase, but no announcements have been made regarding this point.
Electric vehicles have been given unrestricted access to HOT lanes meaning drivers with the green plates can use the HOT lanes with a single occupant and without paying for the HOT permit. Unfortunately with this announcement there was no word about green vehicles in the existing HOV lanes. With the access deadline looming for EVs on the HOV lanes and the big climate plan released last month, it was a bit surprising that there was no mention of the existing HOV lanes for green vehicles. Everyone with an electric car is wondering how they will be driving to work next week. Unrestricted access to HOT lanes sounds great a year or two from now when the HOT lanes are more expansive, but what about today and tomorrow on the current high occupancy vehicle lanes?
Until yesterday there was still a note on the Ministry of Transportation's website advising that green plateaccess to HOV lanesis ending June 30, 2016. That note has quietly disappeared overnight. While it would have been nice to have an official announcement for people who like to plan their routes to and from work, the deletion of the deadline is something that should have happened years ago. I think the government's plan of moving the end date a year later for the past couple years was understandable, but counter productive. It was meant to let people know that as EV adoption increases, and becomes the norm, EVs will lose access to the HOV lanes. The problem is that electric adoption has been very slow, so there's no point in telling people that they're losing access any time soon. Now electric car owners and prospective green car buyers know what to expect for the short term future.
Providing unrestricted access to HOV and HOT lanes, and the new Climate Change Action Plan show that Ontario has made a real commitment to electric vehicles. Now they're quietly making the changes and policies needed to attain these goals. This is another (quiet) win for the EV market in Ontario.