Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

“Gateway Program a balanced solution”

with 9 comments

Kevin Falcon, Special to the Sun
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2007

There a lies, damn lies and then there is the Gateway Program.

I am not going to reproduce all of this propaganda but, as expected, the little wooden headed puppet’s nose is getting longer by the minute.

we are acting now to reduce congestion, improve the movement of people and goods and provide access to key economic gateways.

Nothing will actually happen on the ground for several years. So congestion will continue unabated until then, as there is no strategy for transportation demand management (TDM). For one thing there are no resources available right now and costs of existing projects keep shooting up because of pressure on both labour and materials. A sensible response to this situation might be to introduce measures now that would make better use of existing resources: but that would mean resorting to common sense.

After the doubled bridge and new highway lanes are opened, the existing bottleneck will still be there – more lanes leading up to the bridges than lanes on them – so congestion will return. There is to be no congestion pricing – just a fixed toll – and that means getting the best rate of return for the P3 partner, who has therefore no interest in reducing demand, because that will cut into revenue. That is a different calculation from how do you get the best use of the infrastructure – which is not about moving vehicles, but people and goods. And there will be no toll on the freeway itself, so there is no restraint on the traffic making short trips along the freeway but not crossing the river – in other words, most of it. So we can expect to see traffic growing rapidly until the new capacity is more than fully occupied. That does not mean “reduce congestion” that means “increase congestion” which has happened in every region that has tried to cure congestion by building freeways.

the Gateway Project will implement key transit and cycling options that are currently impossible with today’s congested conditions and inadequate infrastructure.

Twaddle. Completely untrue. Go to the MoTH web site and have a look at the web cams trained on the Bridge. Gosh, that sure looks like moving traffic to me. The congestion is at the on ramps and their merge sections onto the freeway before the bridge. None of which are fitted with ramp metering.

Cycling options – well I will leave that for the experts but I would think from my observation that cyclists would actually do better if the traffic were not moving – they seem to be able to squeeze through really well when the traffic stalls elsewhere. “Congested conditions” actually favour bikes, on the whole.

When the twinned Port Mann Bridge opens in 2013

Note that the Environmental Assessment has not even been completed yet, let alone approval given, but then Kevin knows that is a slam dunk. (Actually no EA in BC has ever said “No” to any development, though some no hopers were withdrawn mid process.) No matter that it is wholly inadequate, ignores what we all know (generated traffic, land use impacts) and is totally unrealistic in its traffic forecasts. You might think he would at least use language that pretends to honour the EA process, since we are still expected to respond to what is presented as “consultation”. Of course, what he has really done is admit that the consultation is in fact a sham and always has been. Since this is “a done deal” as he and his master have said in public more than once.

Initiatives like this stem from our recognition that getting people out of their cars and onto public transit is key to resolving congestion in the long run.

Your “recognition” might be a bit more credible if you were actually ordering more buses now – and putting up the money for the Evergreen Line instead of flannelling on about a “business case”. Not that there is a business case for the Gateway. How does doubling the size of the freeway from Vancouver to Langley actually get anyone out of a car? Your commitment to public transit is a few million dollars in six years time, but your commitment to road building is in the billions. How does that get to be termed “balanced”? Especially since you have starved transit for funding for years, and are now determined to get property taxes raised to pay for the modest expansions you will allow?

NDP Opposition says “No” to the Gateway Program … but is unable to offer commuters any coherent alternative.

The alternative has been on the Livable Region web page for a while now

Written by Stephen Rees

October 25, 2007 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Gateway

9 Responses

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  1. One of the biggest problems with the lower mainland transportation issue is that special interest groups, in this case Vancouver residence) continue to put down any realistic upgrade to our transportation solutions other then public transit solutions of more buses.

    The problem with these special interest groups is that they have little to do with the lower mainland transportation problem as the traffic issues are NOT traffic trying to go from the Valley to downtown like they all want us to believe. The real issue is traffic going from Surrey/Langley to Coquitlam/Poco/Burnaby or traffic going to Richmond. These are the big draws for commuters and bus transportation or rail transportation is not a viable solution.

    So in essence what happens is these special interest groups continue to be heard through Vancouver driven news resulting in more government studies and wasted time. One only has to look at the gateway open houses to see that really only a handful of people in the areas that are affected by the gridlock appear at these gateway meetings opposing the plan.

    If you want to solve the gridlock then you simple have to analyze the traffic instead of listening to the special interest groups. Build or double the bridges over the fraser between the Alex Fraser and the Port Mann. Create rail transportation or frequent bus transportation between Richmond, Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby. Extend rail transportation between Surrey and Langley. Triple the bus service in Surrey by including express buses down main lines in Surrey (64th, 88th, King George, 120th, Fraser Hwy, 152nd.)

    That’s your real solution.

    Paul Sparrow

    October 26, 2007 at 6:16 am

  2. The media does not determine where things are built, politicians do. The current politicians are being dishonest. They pretend that widening Highway #! is necessary for the port – it isn’t. They are chose to ignore well documented traffic generation and land use impacts, and defy the regional growth strategy – which Gordon Campbell essentially wrote when he was Chair of the GVRD! Surrey to and from the TricCities is the biggest single traffic flow across the Port Mann and the transit route via New Westminster is out of the way, slow and inconvenient. A direct bus is doable – despite what Falcon says – and would quickly win traffic the way that 99 and 98 B lines did.

    The biggest growth in traffic after widening will be trips that take advantage of the freeway that now avoid it due to congestion – and most of this won;t cross the river. In every metropolitan area freeway traffic is dominated by people who travel short distances – three to four exits – and this merging and demerging is what slows freeways down.

    The interest group that has the province’s ear are business groups and the small bunch of executives that get picked to serve on these so called independent boards at the port, airport and now Translink too. They do not serve the public interest but their own interest!

    Stephen Rees

    October 26, 2007 at 6:59 am

  3. As I’ve mentioned before, an arterial road system between Surrey & the northeast with a bridge over the Fraser River would provide good infrastructure to the eastern municipalties.

    I tend to think that the whole opposition to the project revolves around the words “highway” or “freeway”.
    The Pitt River Bridge will also increase road capacity. The Golden Ears Bridge will do so too. But those are not “highways” or “freeways”. Or are they?

    ron c.

    October 26, 2007 at 11:32 am

  4. ron c.

    October 26, 2007 at 11:47 am

  5. The region has seen very significant expansion of its road network as development has mostly revolved around the car and ITE standards for things like access and parking. Right now we are supposed to be evaluating the PM2/Highway 1 expansion and the SFPR through two separate EA processes. The Golden Ears and Pitt River bridges are already well on the way to construction (although the MoTH say it is still subject to EA approval) so that’s a bit late – but both will have dramatic impacts on land use in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge. I would be as opposed to an “arterial road” across the Fraser – as it would have exactly the same effect as the PM2 widening – indeed most of the traffic is short distance between the adjacent communities which have no good transit linkage.

    Greater Vancouver needs a much better transit system – and has done for fifty years! Instead of that we have had road expansion and wholly inadequate rapid transit which serves only one small part of the region even now. Oil is now trading above $90 a barrel. How bad dioes it have to get before we change direction?

    Stephen Rees

    October 26, 2007 at 2:27 pm

  6. Ugh I’m suffering from cliche-induced mind fog from all this “special interest” nonsense from Paul Sparrow. It would be nice if Gateway advocates could actually put forth some credulous, well-crafted arguments that don’t rely upon pure silliness (everyone who lives in Vancouver forms a special interest!), or demonstrable falsehoods (this is all about the buses! It’s just impossible to have buses on Hwy1 if we don’t twin it! Pay no heed to the Translink plans to do just that, behind the curtain).


    October 26, 2007 at 4:48 pm

  7. If I understand Mr.Sparrow correctly he first says that transit will not work, yet in the last paragraph suggest that it will. I think many of us are somewhat ambivalent about this car vs. transit issue. Once you are accustomed to the automobile lifestyle transit seems a step back, especially the transit we’re accustomed to. Transit can work on the bridge but for the bridge to decongest some 15,000-20,000 people or so will have to switch from car to transit. This can only be generally acceptable if there is widespead commitment to transit and a very careful and systematic exploitation of the benefits as well as minimizing the negative aspects of transit. Transit proponents need to present a coherent set of actions to bring forward this option to a skeptical public. As a transit proponent myself, I know it is a challenge to even convince my parents, as they have numerous concerns that have validity and that need to be addressed by proponents. This is entirely possible but there needs to be commitment, willingness and daring to do so at the highest level. People need to understand that the extra time and effort they make to take transit translates into visible benefits in their community.

    Asa long as the freeway is not congested it remains very attractive to all users. Even road pricing may not decongest the freeway as people highly value their time and convenience. To decongest the Freeway it may be necessary to put licencing and time restrictions on the use of the freeway the same way they do in downtown London. This way the freeway can be reserved for those who most need it. Since decongesting the freeway is the objective for the BC Liberals to allow business and movement of goods (I still don’t understand why the port doesn’t use an expanded rail system instead???)

    Here is my take on Kevin Falcon’s article after doing some research through the gateway documents (Assessment of transit only option on Port Mann Bridge):

    Transit solutions to the Port Mann bridge congestion will not work says Kevin Falcon because he has already decided for us that we are not going to take the bus. His supporters say that at most nine percent of existing users will switch to the bus, therefore leaving ninety percent of the cars, doing nothing to reduce congestion. This means that any transit solution will be termed unrealistic by Kevin Falcon.

    What it also means is that the Vancouver region will continue down the path of automobile dominated personal transport, as will most of the rest of North America, and continue to fall well short of 30 percent modal shares in a few select cities such as Montreal and Toronto. Kevin Falcon and the BC Liberals are not even giving us a chance to choose for transit based options. In this sense he continues to build upon the myth that American cities cannot achieve mode share of greater than 10 percent because they do not have enough density, while in truth nobody in America has really tried to achieve modal shares higher than this. Continued dominance of car based transport will ensure that our transport energy demands will continue to be four higher than most other cities outside North America, and more of the environment in our region will be dominated by cars, traffic, pavement, and parking areas. The freeway expansion project (euphemistically dubbed the Port Mann twinning), by increasing automobile speeds and space for cars, is encouraging car use. If the expected transit share is capped at a lowly nine percent (instead of 30-50 percent) then this transportation corridor is by definition environmentally unfriendly. If so, then what is the purpose of the environmental assessment? Furthermore our transportation minister is now contradicting these statements by saying that in the coming weeks he will unveil plans that will see BC become a world leader in transit ridership. I hope his riderhsip predictions do not rely too heavily on single line investments such as the Canada line with its over-optimistic ridership projections. After all 50,000 riders instead of 100,000 could quickly cut mode share from a respectable 30% to a less stellar 15% and a corresponding big drop in world standings. While more buses are part of an environmentally friendly solution to congestion, without the widespread reallocation of roadspace and the construction of transit oriented infrastructure and facilities, we cannot expect any dramatic change in the mode share. .

    Ken Bregman

    October 27, 2007 at 2:33 pm

  8. I was under the impression that the Pitt River Bridge *was* going to be expanded, from 4 to 7 lanes, with an interchange at Hwy 7-7B at the west end


    October 27, 2007 at 6:25 pm

  9. My priority at the moment is the current EA process on Highway 1/PM2

    I must admit that I was unaware of how far advanced the PR bridge is – I will edit that comment

    Stephen Rees

    October 27, 2007 at 7:33 pm

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