Stephen Rees's blog

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

B.C.’s new transit plan ends need for Gateway

with 15 comments

Matthew Burrows Georgia Straight

The provincial government’s $14billion transit plan “eliminates the rationale” for the $4-billion Gateway Program, according to Eric Doherty.


Doherty, director at the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation and member of the Livable Region Coalition, has long opposed B.C. transportation minister Kevin Falcon’s Gateway Program—which includes the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and expansion of Highway 1—because he believes it will neither relieve congestion nor increase transit ridership.

Falcon, a long-time Cloverdale resident, has countered these comments by stating his oft-repeated mantra: “Doing nothing is not an option.”

On January 14, Falcon and Premier Gordon Campbell jointly announced the transit plan, which includes the promise of completion of the previously stalled Evergreen SkyTrain line to the Tri-Cities, a rapid-transit line to UBC, an upgrade to the Expo Line, and a $1.6-billion investment in 1,500 new buses. The plan also pledges to ease traffic congestion and increase transit ridership to more than 400 million trips a year.

An estimated $11.1 billion in new funding is needed to complete the plan. The province has committed $4.75 billion; the plan calls for other levels of government to come up with the rest.

“It is providing a better way for people—particularly for the Highway 1 [users]—to get around the region,” Doherty told the Straight by phone. “In theory they could, and who knows, maybe they are already planning on abandoning Gateway and using the money to fund all this. They have certainly eliminated the reason for expanding Highway 1 and twinning the Port Mann Bridge.”

Dale Steeves, the premier’s communications director, did not make Campbell available for an interview by the Straight’s deadline. Falcon did not respond to a Straight message.

Jim Houlahan, vice president at Canadian Auto Workers Union Local 111, which organizes bus drivers in the region, said he agreed with Doherty.

“Gateway is the biggest, dumbest decision we could make,” Houlahan said by phone. “It is a five-year, short-term solution with dramatic adverse effects.”

Written by Stephen Rees

January 17, 2008 at 10:21 am

Posted in Gateway, Transportation

15 Responses

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  1. Eliminate Gateway? Somehow I doubt it. Look at the facts: The BC Liberals’ will never be held accountable to their greenhouse gas targets and they know it. Why? Because by the time the targets will need to make a difference, Campbell & Co. will be long gone. Same with the transit program. It’s highly likely that the projects announced this week will never be built in any recognizable form after the government changes and new priorities arise.

    But with Gateway, it’s happening NOW. Construction is happening NOW. Funding is available NOW. It’s not some pie in the sky dream of the residents like better transit, rather it’s a concerted effort by TPTB and the business community to increase their piece of the action, and for that no one in the club waits more than they have to. Very different from “targets” for GHGs and 20 year plans for transit.

    Another thought occurred to me last night as I sat browsing old streetcar pictures. Is it possible that in 50 to 100 years from now our descendants will be tearing their hair out wondering why the heck we would decide to junk the majority of the industrial infrastructure in this city, just as we lament the junking of the streetcar network 50 years ago? On hearing that the Nanaimo Skytrain station was formerly a foundry, it occurred to me that one day we might need to actually produce materials like that locally (and build a real economy?) and the gobbling up of infrastructure of that nature is a rather hefty mistake.

    Hindsight is 20/20 I suppose.


    January 17, 2008 at 10:59 am

  2. Residents (in any form – whether in expensive condos or in rentals) do not like to look onto or listen to or deal with traffic from – industrial areas. “NIMBYs” pretty well sums it up.

    Ron C.

    January 17, 2008 at 11:20 am

  3. Stephen, please note that Eric Doherty’s call to cancel Gateway is intentionally vague. For example, I have asked his associate David Fields whether or not SPEC opposes the new Pitt River Bridge, an element of Gateway that is bieng paid for 50% by Ottawa. Fields tole me some weeks ago that an answer would be forthcoming, but none has been. As I tried to point out to him, if SPEC wants to oppose that element of Gateway they will have to hurry up as the project is well underway.

    As usual, opposition to Gateway really means just one thing, opposing Port Mann – Highway 1, while basically taking a permissive attitude to the NFRP and SFPR projects, even though it’s crystal clear that it’s the SFPR which invovles serious environmental costs. That’s the stance of the big Gateway opponents, Corrigan, Cadman, etc. And it’s revealing since it shows that the evnrionment is just their sales pitch, not their real motivation. They are opposed to Port Mann – Hwy 1 for some other reason if they are willing to accept SFPR.

    Budd Campbell

    January 18, 2008 at 11:58 pm

  4. Budd – you are being mischievous. The Pitt River Bridge has not been discussed at any LRC meeting or conference call I have attended – so far as I recall (and I could be wrong). The Port Mann Bridge and the Highway widening was what brought the coalition together. When you have a single purpose coalition it is very difficult to expand its purpose since everyone has to agree. That being said we have made our opposition to the whole of the Gateway – and especially port expansion and the SFPR very clear. Again, there are groups that oppose the SFPR solely in terms of its route, not its function.

    We have also been very clear about why we oppose highway expansion. It is because it does not work to relieve highway congestion but simply prolongs the era of car dependence and sprawl.

    Perhaps you can tell me what replacing the Pitt River Bridge will achieve – especially what it has to do with traffic to and from the Port of Vancouver. Our analysis – backed up by that conducted for the City of Burnaby – shows that truck traffic on the Port Mann is mainly local and has little connection to port activities, especially in terms of traffic to and from the rest of North America. I would be very surprised if the Pitt River Bridge has even that much. I have not researched the issue but it could be that bridge replacement is necessary for other engineering reasons – like most of the bridges in this region which need lots of work to make them safe. And suburban, car based development in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge is starting to expand anyway as a result of the Golden Ears Bridge, so it is probably a lost cause.

    Coalitions necessarily cover a broad range of opinion. But one common theme is disgust at the way the Provincial government has managed this process. The demand forecast was simply false. The environmental assessment a sham. The justifications presented for road expansion clearly hiding the true agenda. Our opposition to this ill conceived idea is that it is wrong for this region, wrong for these times, and locks us onto the wrong direction for the future. I am sorry if you do not understand that. It seems to me to be a very straightforward concept. Do not ascribe to us hidden intentions. We have never tried to bamboozle anyone – unlike you and unlike the governments you support.

    Stephen Rees

    January 19, 2008 at 10:02 am

  5. I’m curious as to what your (practical) solution to the congestion on Port Mann is. I’ve looked around the LRC website, and there’s a lot of fine-sounding stuff there, but nothing that says what practically can be done about the fact that there’s a parking lot out there 18 hours a day. Are we expecting all the people that live in Surrey and further to just disappear? I know that Vancouver has done everything in its power to drive jobs out of the city, so maybe the plan is for Burnaby, New West etc to drive the jobs over the bridge as well. That way we can keep the great unwashed masses “over there” and out of the wonderful downtown core.

    Ok, sarcasm aside, do you really think that one skytrain line that doesn’t go where most of that bridge traffic goes (ie into the industrial/commercial suburbs of Coquitlam, New West, Burnaby, south Van) is going to make much of a difference to the traffic?


    January 19, 2008 at 11:51 pm

  6. “The demand forecast was simply false. The environmental assessment a sham. ”

    As I tried to say elsewhere, the traffic projections were done by the same company that did work in the UK that you consider to be quite good, so I don’t know why you think their work here is so unreliable. As for the criticisms of the environmental assessment process, what is the solution? If not a public agency, then who?

    The Pitt River Bridge is part of the NFPR, and therefore part of Gateway, and that’s why Ottawa is paying half the cost. It will include the first ever three level interchange in BC, something that anti-freeway people won’t like since the public will see what’s possible. The benefits of replacement have to do with both general traffic and shipping related movements coming from the CP intermodal yard in Pitt Medows, which is the real reason for moving the Golden Ears brdige west to a 200th alignment from a previously planned 232nd alignment. The new Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is looking for properties in both Pitt Meadows and Mission for container ports.

    I have seen Burnaby’s critique of the amount of truck traffic on Port Mann questioned on the grounds that they included only heavy trucks, not the many smaller ones. Granted, it’s heavier trucks that relate most directly to port shipments, but once that port activity gives rise to many other trades and businesses their traffic has to be mobile as well. The real debate here is one between a purely white collar city where everyone can use transit, and one that has primary, manufacturing and construction work as well as trade and service functions. Perhaps the next time you’re talking to Burnaby City Hall you might ask them about their Big Bend development. How much auto traffic will that generate, given their target of 20 to 30 thousand jobs located in that area?

    Budd Campbell

    January 20, 2008 at 9:59 am

  7. The question is not who did the forecast but what assumptions were made – and why. And Steer Davies Gleave did not do most of the forecasting work, as it happens, most of it was done by Karoly Krayzar (I am sorry I know I spelled his name wrong) who was then at TSI.

    What is wrong with the modelling is that is assumes that the total volume of travel in the forecast year is the same with and without the project. So no land use effects at all and no induced travel. We know both those assumptions are unrealistic. Incidentally, so does Kevin Falcon, who has held breakfast meetings for realtors to promote the land development potential created by his freeway plan.

    The environmental process shortcomings have been detailed extensively. Despite being technically incompetent – and based on false assumptions – the province has chosen to press on anyway. At least one endangered species in the corridor will be lost as a result. It’s not that it is done by a public agency that matters. It was done badly – almost certainly deliberately by political direction – and important impacts simply ignored. It is as if there was no work done at all if nothing positive happens as a result. The BC Liberals are simply cynical opportunists working for vested interests not the public well being.

    You do not expect me to respond about Burnaby do you? I am not that inexperienced in your methods but you do grow very tiresome as everything I have written in response is already in writing from me somewhere in the public domain. If you cannot come out with something original, it might be better if you just stopped commenting here and started your own blog. I will be interested to see how many page views you get.

    Stephen Rees

    January 20, 2008 at 10:34 am

  8. foo

    Are you another identity for “Budd Campbell”?

    The “parking lot 18 hours a day” assertion repeated often enough gets treated as though it were a fact. It isn’t.

    There is congestion before the Port Mann Bridge as more lanes cross the bridge than approach it. Each freeway lane can accommodate 2,000 vehicles per hour (VPH). If prior to the last intersection there are already 2,000 vph per lane on Highway #1 and more vehicles attempt to enter the freeway at the intersection the result is congestion. The project will not correct this situation. It merely increases the number of lanes on the bridge as well as on the approaches. So the congestion will continue – but will occur on a much greater scale. Not very smart eh?

    The province claims its tolling strategy will reduce demand. But neatly ignores that it applies only to the bridge crossing – so demand on the rest of the freeway will continue to expand until the road gets congested again. The province also refuses to consider region wide congestion tolling – the only effective means known to reduce vehicular travel demand. We do not know what the toll level on the bridge will be, but if it is set at a rate to simply pay off the construction cost and remain politically acceptable to car drivers it is unlikely to be enough to make much of a dent in bridge crossing demand either. And a P3 operator will be solely concerned with profits, nothing else.

    Public transport makes much better use of a 12′ wide strip of concrete – because it moves more people. At average vehicle occupancy the people carrying performance of a freeway lane is around 2,600 people per hour. For public transport that is very light loading indeed – and carrying of 10 times that number not unusual, depending on the type of vehicles used and frequency of service. That is why LRC advocates a rapid bus across the Port Mann now – not in ten years time. It can use the hard shoulder as a queue jumper lane – a bus lane on the bridge is not needed. There is also a lot of spare capacity on the SkyTrain bridge due to the lack of rolling stock. For service between Surrey and Coquitlam however journey times by the Expo/Millennium/Evergeen combination is not attractive – mainly due to the out of the way routing and two transfers. However, the opening of the Millennium Line halved the service on the Expo Line to Surrey and at this very least this must be restored as a high priority.

    Again all of this repeats what is already available

    Your last paragraph makes no sense to me, and therefore I am unable to respond to it

    Stephen Rees

    January 20, 2008 at 10:54 am

  9. Stephen,

    First off, I can tell you that foo and I are totally unrelated.

    Your statements about the unrealistic traffic projections are an arguable position. But what is the alternative methodology? I checked with academics in Toronto who agreed that it is problematic to assume the same land use with and without a project. But they also said that there is no Canadian metro area which has developed a model which will generate land use changes based on transport infrastructure changes. So tell me, what was Gateway supposed to do? They used the LRSP land use scheme for both scenarios and you say that’s intentionally misleading people. What would you propose as the alternative land use pattern? Would that be something you and Eric Doherty would put together, completely ignoring the OCPs of Surrey and Langley and instead substituting whatever you think will produce the most “truthful” result?

    I didn’t realize a species would be lost as a result of the PMH1 project. Which species is it? If the general shortcomings have been detailed elsewhere, … where would that be?

    Budd Campbell

    January 21, 2008 at 9:44 am

  10. As I stated in earlier threads, I’m not a troll. I’m genuinely interested in how the region grows sustainably. I read blogs like yours and LRC to get more info. I ask questions to learn more. It might appear to you that this stuff is readily available, but I can tell you as a ‘person-in-the-street’ it most certainly isn’t. How much digging do you think I had to do to even come across blogs like yours? It’s not exactly endearing to get snarked when you’re just trying to make sense of things.

    I’ll admit I’m not a rabid anti-car person. I hate cycling. I use a car on a daily basis. I have tried to see how I could use transit to go about my daily commute, and the fact is that it would add 45 minutes each way.

    I understand that just building highways is not going to decrease congestion. However, I don’t understand why it’s not acceptable to increase road capacity when the region has outgrown the roads that were built in the first place. The Burrard, Granville and Cambie bridges weren’t all built at the same time. Why was it ok to expand those crossings as the city grew, but not ok to expand the Fraser crossings? It seems to me that there’s more than a little “Arizona environmentalism” going on there (ie growth is good till I got my piece, then any more is unacceptable).

    You don’t have to accept me as geniune. That’s fine, I won’t waste your time any more.


    January 21, 2008 at 9:53 am

  11. Budd

    emme/3 as i understand does have a land use component. I have not used it. At one time, back when KK worked for the GVRD, the model had more than one land use scenario for future years. One was based on present trends continue, one on “follow the Plan”. Obviously the densities in certain areas diverged widely the further out in time the forecast went.

    The LRSP is deliberately written in very general terms, without specified interim targets. Population is simply distributed by municipality, not smaller areas and so on. What the Gateway project should have done is come up with an alternate future scenario or two – with transit expansion, same highway and bridge as today, and more concentrated population. This can be distributed using a number of readily available models used by UBC and the Georgia Basin project to examine alternate futures.

    One way of dealing with induced traffic is to run a version of the future year “with project” scenario with the new facility at capacity at peak periods (constrained by a toll assumption on the bridge) with alternate traffic growth rates used to pick a future year. Since traffic expands to fill the capacity available, the argument is not about IF it happens but WHEN. But the forecasts used for this project simply deny that it happens at all, which is manifest nonsense.

    You can read the LRC response to the EA at


    It would be easier to accept you as genuine if you did not hide behind a false email address. This does not appear on the blog but does allow me to check new posters. Since your comments popped up on my moderation screen first, this is the first time you have posted here to my knowledge. Maybe you used another identity or different bogus email before.

    You do not have to be “rabid” to be anti-car, but as it happens I am not. I too live in the suburbs and most of my travel is by car when I am going to other suburban destinations. I also tend to use the car to go downtown when travelling off peak, since the only convenient one seat service (#488) has a very limited schedule and I dislike having to hang around Richmond Centre while my transfer expires! I somehow doubt that it will get any better when the Canada Line opens – and coming home late in the evening by transit is still not going to be a pleasant experience.

    I am in favour of more choice. Indeed, that is what the LRSP prescribes. Transit in the burbs does suck. We know that and must not pretend otherwise, for that is the spur to making it better sooner rather than later. If highway expansion sucks up funds, there will be nothing left for transit. If we waste money buying expensive tunnelled systems for Vancouver there is much less for the rest of the region. That is why I advocate light rail and use of existing tracks even if the routing is less than ideal – because it is cheaper that means we can build a lot more of it and reach more people and places.

    But places have to change. This blog is not just about transit, it is about land use planning. In my view, conventional land use planning in this region has failed dismally. If you want to upset people just talk about density. But until it is possible for people to conduct their daily affairs without resorting to a car for every trip, we are going to continue to consume far too much land and energy just to get around. Our car based transportation system – and the planning and engineering rules developed to facilitate it – is the reason why our greenhouse gas emissions and ecological footprint are both much larger than they need to be. This region needs Transit Oriented Development or Smart Growth – put either set of terms into Google and you will get lots of hits.

    Better patterns of growth have been talked about in this region for years. But the Ministry of Highways and the City Traffic Engineers – and far too many elected officials – did not pay attention. There was nothing wrong with the plans. We just did not implement them. We behaved much like Portland did (see Duany) and look what we got. Outside of downtown, even Vancouver is low density, car driving, Real Canadian Superstore territory.

    I arrived here about ten years ago. I did not want to. I would have been much happier in Victoria where I commuted by bus – or Toronto, where I commuted by GO Transit and TTC – or London where I commuted by train. But you have to go where the work is. Sadly I learned far too late that BC is not at all interested in professional quality project evaluation or real regional planning.

    Stephen Rees

    January 21, 2008 at 1:01 pm

  12. I don’t know if you want any further feedback in view of you new poll.

    From what I have been tole EMME and similar models takes land use, population and employment as supplied by user assumption. It doesn’t project these things. So any land use pattern is a user supplied assumption. So exactly what transit plan was Gateway supposed to have assumed as it’s alternative?

    Putting in the same land use, population and employment may not be entirely realistic in that the timing of development, if not its ultimate shape at full build out, will likely be different. But what else was on hand? By using the same inputs the model analyses the project’s impacts on traffic in a given socio-economic environment and allows for intelligent discussion of impacts. Given the nature of land use planning in BC, with the ALR in place, the limitations imposed by geography, etc., there is probably much less scope for alternative future land use, given a future population and employment level, that what exists in most metro areas.

    “What the Gateway project should have done is come up with an alternate future scenario or two – with transit expansion, same highway and bridge as today, and more concentrated population.” I still don’t understand what makes you think that people commuting by Skytrain from a given work location and with the same income and family type would buy a different type of housing product than if they were making the same commute driving a car. Your associate Mr Doherty has no qualms about saying that anything he considers to be the wrong kind of transit, in this case commuter rail of the WCExpress type, will produce “sprawl” just as readily as will a highway. Why do you think that highway and rail commuters will necessarily pick different housing types?

    Budd Campbell

    January 21, 2008 at 2:10 pm

  13. I do know that if there is no transit expansion south of the Fraser soon there will be no transit oriented development built – or not much outside Surrey Central – or whatever Whalley is called these days. The issue, Budd, as you know because I keep on saying the same thing, is choice. Or rather, the lack of it. Right now most people in the ‘burbs have very limited choices because of inadequate transit and unaffordable housing. We need both more transportation choices and better urban planning to produce more livable, urban places. Land Use and Transportation are two sides of the same coin. Right now what we have outside of the downtown and parts of the SkyTrain network is typical North American suburbia – which looks the same and functions in the same way as most other places in North America.

    If you wish to argue with Eric, talk to him not me.

    Stephen Rees

    January 21, 2008 at 4:23 pm

  14. I’ve previously mentioned in other posts that I think that there should be more “connectivity” across the Fraser River (whether twinning the Port Mann or building a nearby arterial road bridge).
    Given the jurisdictions involved, only the Province’s twinning of the Port Mann is on the table (i.e. the inter-municipal nature of crossing the river would look to Translink for a new bridge, unless cross-river municipalities could agree to fund and build a bridge, which is unlikely given the cost).
    Connectivity would also aid Surrey in growing into the region’s second downtown, as is planned.
    I tend to think that Vancouver has driven industry to the suburbs and become increasingly residential in nature, and then objects to infrastructure projects that are aimed at serving those industries. i.e. “the surburbs should be just like Vancouver” – despite the fact that differing job bases require that the areas have different infrastructure requirements. This could also be an extension of the “Surrey jokes” bias that Vancouverites have against Surrey and the suburbs (i.e. like west side Vancouverities have against the east side).
    I wonder whether the large cities that Vancouver holds up as examples – New York, Paris, London – have industrial areas – and whether those areas have different infrastructure facilities to serve them than the cores of those respective cities?
    Is there a reason that New Jersey seems to be the brunt of New Yorkers’ jokes? Ditto for San Fransisco and Oakland? Seattle and Tacoma?

    Ron C.

    January 21, 2008 at 4:26 pm

  15. The east west thing is common to many places. It is due to the prevalent wind direction. In London all the “noxious trades” tanning, chemicals and so on were confined to the east end so the wind would blow the pong away from the upper class types in Kensington. In fact I think those restrictions may be medieval in their origin.

    But it also applies to places that have no industry – Hove looks down on Brighton for example. And here West Vancouver is even posher than the West Side of Vancouver.

    Making life hard for industry is not good practice but it is typical of traditional planning. And I think you know who I am going to cite as the authority.

    My current cross river transportation priorities would be increasing the service frequency across the SkyBridge and putting in “bulletbus” on the Port Mann immediately. Then replace the New Westminster Railway Swing Bridge. The Patullo may or may not be part of that solution. The new Golden Ears Bridge will also have considerable impact as will the Pitt River Bridge replacement/upgrade. I think I would rather see how that sits first before increasing sov capacity, which here, now must be the last resort – not the first as it always has been up to now.

    But without a doubt unless we get serious about Smart Growth and TOD we are in real trouble. Twinning the Port Mann just locks us into sprawl for the future – which is not a sensible choice given what we know about the energy future and the environment.

    Stephen Rees

    January 21, 2008 at 4:48 pm

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