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

Archive for January 21st, 2009

“No Gateway Bailout” protest at office of struggling project financier

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WHAT: Concerned citizens from throughout the Lower Mainland, including representatives of the Wilderness Committee and the Livable Region Coalition are staging a creative protest against the federal-provincial Gateway Project. They will be distributing special “Bailout Bucks” with information about the current state of the controversial Gateway bridge and highway building project, and calling on Premier Campbell, Prime Minister Harper and potential investors to Cancel Gateway, create Green Jobs, and invest in More Transit Now.

WHEN: this Thursday, January 22 from Noon to 1 PM

WHERE: outside the Bentall 5 Centre at 550 Burrard St. (corner of Dunsmuir) which is where the offices of Macquarie Bank (financiers of the Port Mann Highway 1 expansion component of the Gateway Project) are located.

“Back in September, 2004, BC’s Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon first announced a price tag for the twinning the Port Mann Bridge of $800 Million. The most recent numbers, as quoted in Project Finance Magazine, was $2.3 Billion, almost triple the original estimate,” said Ben West, Healthy Communities Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee.

Now, Macquarie Bank, one of the Gateway project’s financiers, has failed to meet a January 8th deadline for signing off on the project’s financing. It has been reported that Macquarie is struggling to raise the $2 Billion it would need up front due to the global financial crisis. The federal government will table a budget on January 27th that may pass the bill for the full cost of the Gateway project onto taxpayers.

“Now that we know the Macquarie Bank couldn’t raise the funds for the Gateway Project we want to make it clear that we don’t want our tax dollars spent on building what has been called the Gateway to Global Warming,” said David Field of the Livable Region Coalition.

“Any price for the Gateway Project is too high but this is ridiculous,” said Fields. “The twin meltdowns of the economy and our climate have shown us that old planning, like twinning the Port Mann Bridge, freeway expansion and the rest of the Gateway Project, no longer serve the public interest. We have a chance to stabilize our economy and our climate by investing in clean, green jobs and smart projects like reliable and affordable public transit.”

“It’s in the interests of all Canadians that the federal and provincial governments don’t try to use yesterday’s solutions for tomorrow’s problems. We need green budgets, not bail-outs of wasteful and dangerous boondoggles like the Gateway Project,” said West.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 21, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Transportation

Patullo could re-open in two weeks

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Translink Press Release

January 21, 2009

Local Permanent Structure to Replace Pattullo Bridge Wooden Trestle Found, Pile Driving to Begin Thursday

A structure that was used to bridge over an excavated station location during Canada Line construction, has been sourced as the replacement piece for the burned wooden trestle at the Pattullo Bridge.The bridge is an existing steel/concrete composite structure that will span the 60 ft gap left after the old timbers was dismantled and removed yesterday. It was located in the Langley, British Columbia yard of Surespan Construction by TransLink design consultants Buckland and Taylor.

In just two days, a turn-key agreement with Surespan was reached on the supply of all materials, fabrication and construction on the replacement piece for the Pattullo Bridge. That work will begin on Thursday. The company will begin pile driving tomorrow and construction will proceed on a 24 hour basis until expected completion, which could be within 2 weeks.

TransLink had been planning to replace the wooden structure this summer and had engaged Buckland and Taylor to design it. This design was nearing completion and Buckland and Taylor were very familiar with the requirements and constraints of a replacement structure.

“After the fire, having determined that the timber structure was unsafe for use, we asked Buckland and Taylor to source contractors and local materials for a modified design for a replacement piece for the wooden trestle,” said Sheri Plewes, VP Capital Management and Planning for TransLink.

“The criteria was to source a permanent structure that could serve for a 6 to 10 year timeframe, and be built as quickly as possible.”

While the bridge is undergoing that major construction, TransLink will take the opportunity to forge ahead with pothole repair and repaving plans on the bridge deck.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 21, 2009 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Transportation

Expected commuter crush on SkyTrain didn’t happen

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Vancouver Sun

When I first heard this story yesterday evening on the CBC tv news my initial reaction was that the system wide ban on cyclists on SkyTrain was an over reaction. But reading further in this story and reflecting on the CBC vox pops it seems that drivers in this region are indeed very reluctant to give up their cars and not a few professed ignorance to the closure of the Patullo.

Meanwhile, commuters crossing the Fraser River Tuesday morning faced long delays as the Pattullo Bridge remains closed.

The Port Mann Bridge was backed up to 200th St. in Langley at 7:30 a.m. because of the extra traffic load.

There were also long delays on the Alex Fraser Bridge and George Massey Tunnel because of the fire that forced the closure of the Pattullo Bridge on Sunday.

But again it was the roads leading up to these crossings that saw the worst congestion. It is the back up from the intersections  that represents the “storage capacity” of the system.

Unsurprisingly there was also a press statement from Get Paving BC – their solution to every problem is to call for more roads and bridges. And Jordan Bateman honestly thinks that having additional capacity beyond current demand would actually be useful in providing some kind of safety margin in the event of  closures in the future. Which of course is utter nonsense unless we build a few new bridges but keep them closed – and only open them when an incident forces the closure of another crossing. I cannot see that as being popular or affordable – or even defensible. The pressure to open more bridges is understandable but utterly misguided, because traffic expands to fill the space available.

What Monday demonstrated was that it takes time for the message to sink in. Everyone thinks that some one else will adjust so they don’t have to. The recognition that one’s own preferred routine has to be disrupted comes slowly because it is not palatable. And often once you have committed to a route – especially a controlled access freeway there is not much in the way of alternative immediately available. Recently Steveston Highway – where I live – was closed ddue to powerlines being down – and I happened to be one of the drivers diverted by that. The long and circutouis route via Dyke Road was only familiar to me becuase that is one I use when I want to go for a bike ride with no particular destination in mind.  And that is much shorter because on a bike I can use the Horseshoe Slough trail. If I had known that the highway was going to be closed I would have planned accordingly but a uniformed police officer tells you “you can go left or left” there is nothing else you can do.

I suspect that on Monday those that did know said to themselves “how bad can it be?” and then found out. The coming days will show how adaptable we are.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 21, 2009 at 10:21 am

Posted in Transportation

Wilderness Committee calls for Rapid Bus Service to Relieve Patullo Congestion Immediately

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Press Release

Vancouver, BC — “The solution to the congestion being caused by last weekend’s Patullo Bridge fire is immediate action to increase capacity on our public transit system,” says Wilderness Committee Healthy Communities Campaigner Ben West. “Public transit moves more people per lane and per dollar spent than cars, and we need to take advantage of that right now.”

The Patullo Bridge between Surrey and New Westminster will not re-open for at least a month, resulting in even more traffic being caught in the bottlenecks leading onto the Port Mann Bridge and the other congested areas throughout the region.

According to the Livable Region Coalition’s Eric Doherty, “TransLink and the City of Surrey could easily put a ‘queue jumper’ lane from beyond 104th Ave. to the Port Mann Bridge approach to allow buses to pass quickly through bottleneck points up the road from the bridge. Temporary transit queue jumper lanes have already been used on Broadway during the Canada line construction.”

“We need rapid bus service throughout the region. Our governments must act cooperatively and quickly to get more buses moving across the Fraser River. We don’t need more studies; we need to stick to our existing regional growth strategy which means investing in public transit immediately and strategically,” said West.

The Livable Region Strategic Plan, Metro Vancouver’s regional growth strategy, called for 1900 buses to be in service by 2006. TransLink’s five year strategic plan called for 1600 buses by 2006 but even now there are only 1100 in operation. The More Buses Now campaign organized by the Canadian Auto Workers union is calling for more buses immediately with 500 more buses in place by 2012. The BC government’s transit plan currently wouldn’t have these buses in place until 2020.

“Now that there are serious concerns about the financing of the Gateway highway project because of the financial crisis it’s more important than ever that we invest our precious tax dollars in transit-based solutions that genuinely help us get around, and are also good for the environment and could be in place many years before new highways could be built,” West said.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 21, 2009 at 9:49 am

Posted in transit