High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes Coming to the QEW

If you regularly use the QEW, the province’s plan to designate existing High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes as HOT lanes, may help make your commute a little less congested.

Ontario is launching Canada's first High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes as part of a pilot project on the QEW—between Trafalgar Road and Guelph Line—in an effort to help manage congestion on a highway well known for giving commuters headaches.

The pilot project will start on September 15, 2016 and is expected to last two to four years.

Currently, only vehicles with two or more occupants are able to use the HOV lanes. However, beginning September 15, solo drivers with a HOT permit will be allowed to use the lanes as well. Vehicles with two or more occupants can continue to use the QEW HOT lanes for free.

Getting a HOT permit

Initially, the HOT permits available for purchase will be limited. Drivers interested in getting a HOT permit must enter a draw and only about 1,000 permits will be available.

To enter the draw, drivers must apply online at ServiceOntario. Applications will be received from August 1 to August 21, 2016 and those who applied will be emailed on September 1, 2016 with the results.

Permits will be valid for three months and will cost $180. Those who get a HOT permit will have the option to auto-renew two times before having to go through the draw process again. For those who do not win the option to buy a HOT permit for the first term, there will be another draw in November for the next three-month term.

Who can apply for a HOT permit?

Not everyone can apply for a HOT permit. There are a few restrictions to keep in mind before applying online. To be eligible for the HOT permit:

  • You must have a vehicle that is registered in Ontario and has a valid licence plate.
  • The vehicle must be less than 6.5 metres long, weigh less than 4500 kg and be registered for personal or commercial use.
  • You must have no outstanding fines on your driving record.
  • You’ll have to agree to the HOT Permit Terms of Use which includes mandatory participation in data collection through questionnaires.

Penalties for driving in a HOV or HOT lane when you shouldn’t be

If you’re not permitted to use a HOT lane but caught driving in one, the penalty is a $110 ticket and three demerit points added to your driver’s licence. Of course, that doesn’t include the possible penalty on your car insurance rate for getting a ticket.

There are also penalties if you take advantage of the pilot program itself (e.g. let’s say you decide to share your permit). A Pilot Offence can result in a fine that can range from $250 up to $2,500.

More HOT lanes in the coming years

The information gathered through the QEW pilot project will play a part in deciding placement of future HOT lanes. Already in the works is a new, dedicated 15.5 kilometre stretch on Highway 427 from Highway 409 to Rutherford Road that is expected to open in 2021. These toll lanes will have electronic tolling in both directions, instead of a permit.