Commuters may soon HOVER over traffic jams

By National Post May 22, 2007

GTA transportation officials are championing a new car-pooling scheme that would combine security and flexibility in a bid to ease the region”s gridlock.

“The public is hungry for something like this,” said Toronto Councillor Howard Moscoe, who calls it “an idea whose time has come.”

HOVERPORT — High Occupancy Vehicle in Express Routes — is a concept that was developed by a Canadian-born New Zealander, Paul Minett, and his company, Trip Convergence Ltd., and is being presented to city councils in North America and New Zealand. Under the system, commuters drive to a parking terminus, where they either pick up other riders or leave their car and ride with someone else. Unlike traditional car pools, the HOVER commute requires no pre-planning or commitment, so riders can use it as often as they like or not at all, and they don”t have to worry about being late for a pickup because there is no set time to meet a ride. Drivers are rewarded with ride credits, and the program is based on a paid membership with a photo ID card issued after a police security check.

In January, officials from Transport Ontario, the City of Toronto, the Toronto Transit Commission, GO Transit and the Town of Markham met to consider doing a feasibility study, but all are reluctant to commit funds to a study until the program has been proven in another city.

“Traffic congestion concerns are very scary,” said Lorenzo Mele, Markham”s transportation demand management co-ordinator. He is interested in doing a study to see if HOVER would work in Markham, “but there may not be enough convergence of traffic into one area to make the system feasible,” he said. “The biggest challenge to getting people to car-pool is the convenience factor and Paul”s plan is the easiest to use.”

Patricia Boeckner, Director of Transportation Planning at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, believes Toronto is too complex a city for HOVER.

She prefers one of the other car pooling concepts in use in the GTA, such as Smart Commute and Intelligent Transportation Systems that operate with global positioning.

Rob McPhail, Toronto”s director of transportation planning, said he likes the HOVER concept because “it”s inexpensive for capital investment, as online casino nederlandsegokken well as selfrunning and self-governing.”

“It”s of real interest in the 905,” he said. “The further out of the city that you intercept people, the better. We”ve successfully decentralized employment, so it”s more of a challenge to get enough people to make the system work. It”s an interesting, creative idea Ontario online drivers education schools: locations, contact information, reviews from real students. though that needs a working model,” he concludes, “but I think that there”s potential for it in Toronto.”

Trip Convergence Ltd. estimates annual savings for gas, maintenance and parking at $2,500 a year.

It would cost members about $220 for the car tag (to park in the HOVER terminus) and $30 for the membership card. An Auckland Regional Council study estimates the annual saving of carbon emissions at 5,000 tonnes per participant.

“Even if a single-occupancy driver shared a ride once a week, it would reduce traffic by 20%,” Mr. Minett said.

The TTC has offered parking space at the Finch, Dufferin South and Wilson stations for a study, according to Bill Dawson, the commission”s superintendent of routes and systems planning.

“We”re certainly supportive. We carry about 40,000 people an hour during peak times on TTC, so losing a few hundred isn”t going to make a difference. The province needs to think in terms of longer trip lengths. From the TTC perspective, [the project]makes sense.”

Mr. Moscoe acknowledged that “there needs to be a working model first and there will be lots of bureaucratic and financial hurdles” before the Toronto area will buy in. A feasibility study would cost between $30,000 and $50,000 and the pilot program”s $250,000 cost would install a permanent car park, said Mr. Minett.

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