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Ontario government hiding plans for toll lanes
The Toronto Sun ^ | August 22/24, 2015 | Shawn Jeffords

Posted on 08/28/2015 12:33:41 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks

TORONTO - The Ontario government has been working on plans for high occupancy toll lanes on three Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area highways since 2013, but has kept most of the details secret.

When the NDP filed a Freedom of Information request in early 2014 for detailed information on the work, which includes traffic models, most of the documents were to be blacked out or not released at all, according to a report obtained by the Toronto Sun.

Ministry of Transportation staff prepared the note to give senior bureaucrats and the minister’s office a heads-up about the NDP’s “contentious” request.

It warned of releasing the toll lanes information so close to last summer’s provincial election.

“There will be heightened sensitivity about the release of the findings during the writ period as transit and congestion are key issues of the campaign,” the note says.

When the reports were finally released, the NDP was given 58 pages out of 492. The rest were blacked out using two broad exemptions under FOI law, which protect cabinet records and advice to government.

“An index has been prepared as many of the records are protected in its entirety and the redacted pages will not be disclosed,” the internal note on the NDP request says.

High occupancy toll lanes (HOT) are similar to high occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV), except drivers pay a fee to use them with only one person in the car.

The Liberal government has made no secret of its intention to introduce HOT lanes on Ontario highways, mentioning them in the past two provincial budgets. In July, Premier Kathleen Wynne said the HOV lanes used during the Pan Am Games would teach the government lessons for implementing HOT lanes.

NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh said the “lockdown” on the plans is troubling.

“The fact that they’re not willing to release the information, and they’re so partisan about it, even citing the upcoming election, just calls into question the commitment to accountability and transparency,” Singh said. “They’re just as in lockdown mode as the Harper government.”

Obtaining and scrutinizing government documents is an essential part of what oppositions parties do, he said.

“What we’ve seen is a government that is not willing to respond, finding any excuse possible to not disclose information, using these exemptions to redact, in this case, hundreds of documents.”

MTO spokesman Bob Nichols said the government takes its responsibilities under Freedom of Information law “very seriously” and during an election campaign requests are processed as usual.

“The wording you refer to was meant to remind the reader that during an election campaign, the role of the public service is to provide uninterrupted delivery of programs while remaining neutral and non-partisan,” Nichols said.

The department revised its decision on Sept. 4, 2014, and provided more information contained within the 58 pages, he said.

Documents obtained by the Sun in late 2014 show the MTO, like many provincial ministries and agencies, flags all FOI requests from opposition parties, journalists and anyone who might speak publicly on a matter deemed “contentious.” A briefing note about each of these requests is created and sent to senior bureaucrats, the transportation minister and the cabinet office, which houses the premier’s office.

Nichols said the government continues to work on plans to introduce the lanes as part of its Moving Ontario Forward strategy. The plan will invest $31.5 billion over 10 years in transit, transportation and other infrastructure projects.

“The exact locations of the future HOT lanes are still under study,” he said.


Benjamin Dachis likens Toronto’s traffic congestion to an old Three Stooges gag.

You likely know the one — whether you’re a fan of slapstick or drive to work daily. Larry, Curly and Moe all try to pile through a door at the same time. They get stuck and no one gets through.

Dachis, a senior policy analyst at the C.D. Howe Institute, says the comedy bit repeats itself every day on the city’s highways — minus the laughs.

“That’s what road congestion is — everyone trying to get onto the road at the same time,” Dachis said.

But the province’s plan to create high occupancy toll lanes could help because it will put a price on time, he said. This forces drivers to make a choice, whether it be to pay and use the lane or leave the car at home. Either way, he says, traffic in all lanes, not just the HOT lanes, flows more smoothly.

Dachis said the lanes would also give public transit a faster route around the region, making the network more efficient.

“These effectively become virtually exclusive bus lanes,” he said. “You’ve created this network where bus public transit can have ready, congestion-free travel across the region.”

Dachis said he doesn’t agree with critics who call them “Lexus Lanes.”

“This is not, for the most part, something rich people are going to use every day,” he said. “This is the sort of thing people of varying incomes are going to use when they really, really need it.”

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Canada; Crime/Corruption; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: commuters; congestion; congestionpricing; foi; gta; hov; infrastructure; kathleenwynne; liberals; ndp; ontario; opposition; parliament; redacted; tolls; traffic; transportation

1 posted on 08/28/2015 12:33:41 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
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To: Squawk 8888

Another Toronto HOT Lanes article from last Saturday.

2 posted on 08/28/2015 12:34:12 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Democrats and GOP-e: a difference of degree, not philosophy)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

If it were full privatization, I’m not sure I’d have a problem with it. But it isn’t of course; it’s double taxation.

3 posted on 08/28/2015 12:35:27 PM PDT by Olog-hai
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To: Olog-hai

It seems as though the government is going to use the revenues for other projects.

4 posted on 08/28/2015 12:36:34 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Democrats and GOP-e: a difference of degree, not philosophy)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

Yup; redistribution at the king’s whim.

5 posted on 08/28/2015 12:37:30 PM PDT by Olog-hai
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

Horrible situation as it actually forces one to concede that the far-left nutball NDP party is RIGHT on this.

And I thought stuff this corrupt only happened here in Pennsylvania.

6 posted on 08/28/2015 12:39:28 PM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

In California we have both HOV and HOT.

The HOV are occupied by so many self righteous electric car owners who get their hydrocarbons from a power plant and not a gas station. Not to mention every furniture delivery truck because there are two people in the cab, not to mention infants in car seats as passengers. None of these remove cars from the freeway.

The HOT lanes, however, flow fast and free. There persons freely choose between time and money.

7 posted on 08/28/2015 12:40:32 PM PDT by cicero2k
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

You wouldn’t think the public planning process by public agencies for public roads all paid for by the public — could possibly be kept secret from the public —in any country - even communist or islamonazi dictatorships. Way to go, Canada. ( still stuck too close to American bad influence, eh?)

8 posted on 08/28/2015 12:42:50 PM PDT by faithhopecharity (up)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks; Clive; exg; Alberta's Child; albertabound; AntiKev; backhoe; ...

Canada Ping!

9 posted on 08/28/2015 12:46:22 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (I don't run; if you see me running, you should run too.)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

You’re don’t pay a toll just to use a road — you pay a toll to keep other people off the road you want to use.

10 posted on 08/28/2015 1:16:46 PM PDT by USFRIENDINVICTORIA
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

Depending on how much the toll is, this will help move some traffic from the regular lanes in to the HOV lanes which are currently often nearly empty, at least in comparison to the other 2 or more lanes which are often bumper to bumper and barely moving.

That’s not to say that I don’t think that the HOV lanes were a total waste of time and money to start with - they took away a regular traffic lane, and they cause disruptions in traffic flow as vehicles try to get to and from the HOV lanes (on the left) and the on/off ramps on the right. Also the idiots who dive in and out of these (completely unprotected other than some road markings) lanes in places where it’s not allowed. I’ve seen a number of near accidents where someone drove from the slow-moving left-most normal lane into the HOV lane where someone was coming along at 75 mph. It’s also scary as heck when traffic is moving unimpeded at those sorts of speeds in the HOV lanes while just a few feet away to its right cars are stopped or moving slowly.

It goes without saying, of course, that these HOV lanes were introduced by a Liberal government trying to provide an inducement for car-pooling, which most people aren’t interested in because it’s a pain in the butt. Instead it’s a handy fast lane for those people who have 2 or more in their car, as they would have regardless of whether or not an HOV lane existed. One of my co-workers loves that he can use it with his son in a child seat in the back. Nice for him, at everyone else’s expense.

11 posted on 08/28/2015 2:40:29 PM PDT by -YYZ- (Strong like bull, smart like tractor.)
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