For decades city thoroughfares have been the private playground of SUVs and minivans, more often than not conspicuously occupied by a single driver, that help contribute to Calgary’s frustrating gridlock.

But city planners are hoping that adding 220 kilometres of carpool lanes, dubbed in bureaucratese as high-occupancy vehicle lanes, will compel these drivers to dive in, emulating the success of other cities.

Inner city Ald. John Mar, who asked city staff to hatch the scheme, agreed Calgarians may not take to the notion overnight, but the strategy, education and incentive campaign will be decades in the making.

“It’s a planner’s dream right now,” he said. “Human beings are about change — we’re not talking about implementing this any time in the near future so there will be time to adapt.”

Currently, the city has but one road, Centre Street North, with dedicated car/bus lanes during rush hour, and the experiment has not been what anyone would call an overwhelming success.

Single drivers who hog the dedicated right lane can always argue they were merely getting over to turn onto whichever of the Crescent Heights side roads they choose, making enforcement a nightmare.

While those caught abusing the system can be hit with a $60 fine, council today will debate whether to double the amount to create a greater deterrent.

Mar agrees Centre Street is a poor example of how a carpool-friendly roadway should look and is hoping planned improvements to Bow Trail, including the addition of two new high-occupancy vehicle lanes, will be the model from which to develop others.

But he knows more than just having the option available will be needed.

Incentives such as parking discounts at city lots, along with fuel and food cards will be the carrot used to convince multiple drivers to use just one set of wheels.

But the question that will need to be answered as the strategy emerges is will people stay in the pool after they test the waters?

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