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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to talk about another success story for the McGuinty government.
One year ago today, this government opened the first provincial HOV lanes on Highways 403 and 404 with the goal of managing congestion and improving travel for commuters.
We heard that commuters were frustrated about the time it took to get to their destinations and we responded.
We knew that the delays they encountered on the road meant less time to spend with their friends and families.
We opened our HOV lanes last December so that commuters would get to their destinations in less time.
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to inform you that one year later, HOV lanes are an unqualified success.
Many groups have come forward with their support for this important initiative — organizations such as CAA and Ontario Motor Coach Association see the value in building HOV lanes.
Before HOV lanes were built, a trip on Highway 403 eastbound during the morning rush took about 22 minutes. That same trip now takes about eight minutes in HOV lanes.
Mr. Speaker, the choice is obvious, and many commuters have recognized the benefits of HOV lanes. In 2003, only 14 per cent of people travelled in carpools on Highway 403 eastbound. Nearly 40 per cent of people are now carpooling on the HOV eastbound lanes on highway 403 during the peak rush hour.
Our HOV lanes are working, but there's room for more carpoolers. It's important to keep the momentum going and keep carpools growing. Indeed, I would encourage all the members of this house and their staff to lead by example and carpool on a regular basis.
Mr. Speaker, HOV lanes are also encouraging people to take public transit because bus operators can offer faster, more reliable trips, and customers can be confident that their bus won't get stuck in traffic. GO Transit has reported that ridership on the bus routes using HOV lanes is growing.
Public transit agencies using HOV lanes are reporting back that their buses arrive at their destinations on time and with greater consistency than ever before.
Our environment also benefits as lane use increases with more and more commuters carpooling or taking transit.
Mr. Speaker, our government's plan to encourage carpooling and public transit use is working.
Habits are changing. People who carpool or take public transit are telling us that using HOV lanes allows them more time with their families than on the road.
Commuters are telling us their travel time is shorter when they use HOV lanes.
But it's not just HOV and public transit users who benefit. Motorists in general traffic lanes on Highway 403 and 404 have seen eight to 11 minutes shaved from their commute times because there are less cars on the road.
Our government is building on this success. By next summer, the HOV network will expand with the opening of the northbound HOV lane on Highway 404 north of Highway 401.
Initial stages of construction are underway to add HOV lanes on the QEW between Oakville and Burlington, and we will also introduce HOV lanes on Highway 417 in Ottawa, between Palladium Drive and Highway 416.
HOV lanes are part of the McGuinty government's plan for a sustainable transportation network across Ontario.
We are building on this year's success and creating a transportation network, one that takes a holistic approach to keeping goods and people moving.
We have laid the foundation for this network. Rob MacIssac, our newly appointed chair of our Greater Toronto Transportation Authority is already working with municipal partners to plan for some exciting transit initiatives.
We have delivered on our promise to share the gas tax and provided municipalities with $1.6 billion for new buses and increased service.
We are committed to extending the TTC subway to York University. Extending the subway line will help the more than 65,000 students and faculty members at York University get to and from school quickly and conveniently.
Mr Speaker, the subway extension is a solution that demonstrates the McGuinty government's commitment to supporting public transit in Ontario.
The federal government must come to the table with funding to make crucial transit projects happen.
Mr. Speaker, our government is on the side of commuters who want to get to work and get home reliably and safely.
A sustainable transportation network is the key to Ontario's economic future, and a critical part of our plan to ensure Ontarians continue to enjoy the highest quality of life.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.