- What is an HOV Lane?
- The Benefits
- Finding a Ride
- HOV Lane Lines and Signs
- Provincial Highways
- Frequently Asked Questions
In 2007, the Province released an ambitious plan to add over 450 kilometres of new HOV lanes on 400-series highways in the Greater Golden Horseshoe – including some of the most heavily-congested highways in the province - over 25 years.
View a summary of the plan (2007)
The sign above is used to identify HOV lanes on provincial highways.
HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes are designed to help move more people through congested areas. HOV lanes offer users a faster, more reliable commute, while also easing congestion in regular lanes - by moving more people in fewer vehicles.
HOV lanes on Highways 403, 404, 417 and the QEW are the inside (leftmost) lane and are identified by signs and diamond symbols on the pavement. The HOV lane is separated from the other general traffic lanes by a striped buffer zone. Vehicles carrying at least two people may enter and exit the HOV lane only at designated points, clearly identifiable by wide and closely spaced white broken lines and diamond symbol pavement markings.
HOV Lane Rules
HOV lane rules are enforced like any other rule of the road.
The HOV lane is separated from the other general traffic lanes by a striped buffer zone. It is illegal and unsafe to cross the striped buffer pavement markings. HOV lanes are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Who can use HOV lanes?
HOV lanes on provincial highways are reserved for any of the following passenger vehicles carrying at least two people (often referred to as 2+):
- Commercial truck less than 6.5 metres long
- Taxi or limousine
- Vehicles with a special green licence plate (plug-in hybrid electric or battery electric vehicle)
A bus of any type can use an HOV lane, even without passengers. This helps buses keep to their schedules and provide reliable, efficient service.
Emergency vehicles are permitted to use the HOV lanes at all times.
Single-occupant taxis and airport limousines are permitted in HOV lanes until July 1, 2015. Eligible vehicles must display a separate taxicab or limousine registration plate issued by a municipality or airport authority on the rear of the vehicle.
Drivers of electric vehicles with green licence plates will be granted access to high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on 400-series highways until July 1, 2015, even if there is only one individual in the car. (See: Electric Vehicles – Ontario’s Green Plates) - http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/dandv/vehicle/electric/ev-green-plates.shtml)
Which vehicles are NOT allowed to use HOV lanes?
- A vehicle with only the driver
- Motorcycles with only the driver
- Commercial trucks greater than 6.5 metres in length or with a gross weight of more than 4,500 kg
Who counts as a passenger?
For the purposes of HOV lane travel, adults and children occupying a seat are considered passengers. There are no restrictions on the age of a passenger in the HOV lane. (See below: Finding a Ride)
Although our highways are congested with cars, vans and trucks, they can still carry thousands more people - just by increasing the number of passengers in each vehicle. Most people drive alone, even during the most congested periods of the day. One solution is to encourage more commuters to join carpools and take transit.
High Occupancy Vehicle lanes are specifically for use by carpools and buses. The lanes provide fast, reliable travel for HOV users at any time of the day - particularly during peak travel periods when other lanes can be slow and congested.
Number of Vehicles Needed to Carry 57 People
HOV Benefits to You
- Save Time: HOV lane users avoid congestion, arriving at their destinations more quickly than those who do not carpool; no more leaving at 6 a.m. to "beat the rush"!
- More Reliable Commute: Avoiding congestion means a quicker and more consistent commute time.
- Save Money: It costs less to ride a bus or to share a ride than to drive alone every day. Regular carpooling could cut fuel costs by 50 per cent.
- Conserve Fuel: Less fuel wasted sitting in traffic.
- Less stress: Letting someone else drive - or taking turns - gives carpoolers a chance to relax on the drive to work.
HOV Benefits to Your Community
- Managing Congestion: An HOV lane can handle a lot of growth in demand, whereas once a general traffic lane reaches capacity, it actually moves fewer vehicles due to congestion.
- Better Use of Infrastructure: One highway lane can carry 1,500-2,200 vehicles per hour. A lane full of buses and carpools moves many more people than a general traffic lane.
- Transit Priority: Buses and transit riders have priority - transit buses can carry the equivalent of up to 57 single occupant cars!
- Providing Choices: HOV lanes will make carpooling and public transit more effective and reliable choices for Ontario commuters.
- Supporting mobility: Taxicabs and airport limousines that use HOV lanes will be able return to duty faster after dropping off a fare or arrive sooner to pick up a fare.
- Supporting Electric Vehicles: Allowing electric vehicles to use HOV lanes (until July 1, 2015) is a way to reward early adopters of electric vehicle technology and make it easier for people to buy and drive electric vehicles, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.
If you drive alone most of the time consider taking transit or carpooling. If you are interested in joining a carpool, there are several ways to do it. Sharing a ride - as a driver or a passenger - may be easier than you think!
Carpool partners can be found in many ways: Among co-workers, family, neighbours, or friends.
How a carpool operates is up to its users. There may be a regular driver or you may alternate vehicles. Often there is an agreement to share the cost of fuel. Check with your auto insurance company regarding their carpooling policies.
Offering a ride for profit can only be undertaken by a licensed public service, such as a taxi or limousine.
Related Link: Smart Commute - If you live in the GTA or Hamilton, you can find out how to form your own carpool.
This link is provided for information purposes only. This website is not in any way endorsed by, or affiliated with, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. The Ministry assumes no responsibility for the content of this website or for the quality or cost of the service provided. The Ministry assumes no responsibility for the suitability of individuals as potential carpooling partners that the user may establish contact with through this site. Please examine the disclaimers of any of the ridematching sites you may choose to visit for further information. Those participating in carpooling arrangements must ensure they are in full compliance with all applicable laws including those relating to applicable licensing/insurance requirements as well as the rules of the road.
Carpool Parking Lots
The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario provides free carpool parking lots near dozens of highway interchanges throughout Ontario. They are ideal places to meet up with your pre-arranged carpool partners before entering the highway system. Selected lots are also served by public transit.
Entrances to the lots are marked by the familiar parking lot sign. Lighting and pay telephones have been installed and snow is removed in most parking areas.
Carpool Parking Lot Locations
- Use an interactive map to locate MTO carpool parking lots.
- See a list of all MTO carpool parking lots.
Who Can Use Them?
Anyone. No registration or permit is required, and there is no charge for use of these unsupervised lots. Just drive in and park. Overnight parking is permitted. Commercial vehicles are not allowed.
(Note: The Ministry of Transportation accepts no responsibility for loss or damage to vehicles or their contents.)
For information on the public Transit services in your area, please visit Traveller's Information: Public Transit Systems in Ontario