Stephen Rees's blog

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

No new funds for Port Mann buses

with 4 comments

Globe and Mail

Cars and trucks will be crossing the new Port Mann Bridge a year earlier than promised, but transit riders may be out of luck without substantial new funding for bus services.

Ken Hardie, a spokesman for TransLink, said in an interview that the agency is facing an annual shortfall of $150-million based on current demand, and it will have evaporated its reserves within two years. To pay for the additional services that have been promised across the system, it would need to find an extra $300-million each year.

“We have been lavished with funding from the federal and provincial governments but it’s all for capital costs,” he said. The cost of operating the buses is the more significant part of the equation, he said.

This, of course, is not news. It is a reaction to the province’s announcement that the bridge will be “open a year early”. (It will also be slightly cheaper – interesting how once the P3 was cancelled it got both faster AND cheaper). Obviously Translink was not consulted – because they are still in the throes of trying to get people interested in their “long term plan” – when the real question is the short term cash crunch. Equally obviously it really does not matter what the agency wants to do – now or in the future – since it can only do what the province decides. And that is never based on regional priorities but short term political advantage. And both the Liberals and the NDP play that game.

And, once again, Kevin Falcon is out there lying in his teeth.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon vowed the promised rapid buses will be running on the new bridge. He said the province will pay part of the cost, but it is up to the regional governments to find their share as well.

“The day it opens, the rapid bus will be in place,” Mr. Falcon said in an interview. “The regions have to contribute. It’s never easy, but I think the public wants public transit.”

He said there has been no regular bus service on the existing Port Mann Bridge for two decades because of chronic congestion, and the increased transit services are a key part of the government’s climate action agenda. 

There has been no regular bus service since the previous one was cancelled due to “low ridership” after the Expo line was extended to Scott Road. And since Translink was told not to introduce a direct North Surrey to Coquitlam bus by Mr Falcon’s minions. “Chronic congestion” is not an excuse used for taking off bus service – and has never been used on any of the other very congested routes. What is done is that bus lanes are put in – just as the province is now doing on Highway #99. They have long been needed on the northbound approach to the Oak Street Bridge but are only now under construction as an afterthought, to deal with South Surrey and Delta express buses being diverted into the new Canada Line station at the casino. 

Increased transit service is also an afterthought. Since the main plank of this government’s transportation objective in this region is to increase traffic . Again, they lie about that, saying it will reduce ghg emissions as traffic will flow better on a wider freeway. But of course we all know – as do they – that has never happened anywhere. Last night I watched “New York: A Documentary Film” on KNOW. It was about the new bridges and freeways built by Robert Moses in the 1930s. Same justification as Falcon and Gordo still use – it would “solve congestion” and be a useful stimulus in times of economic depression. But soon after the Triborough Bridge opened, New York experience the worst traffic jam in its then history. Because new highways and bridges generate more trips. There is always more traffic when networks are expanded.  People use their cars more when offered new trip making opportunities – and those trips are usually longer. Congestion eventually settles back into a sort of equilibrium. As long as there are no major incidents, traffic reverts to about 10mph on average in nearly every city on earth. Enough people give up marginal trips, and enough people insist on driving to ensure a level of not too much misery every day. Until there is a collision. Or a truck overturns. Or the potholes need fixing. 

He is right, the people do want transit. They have been wanting it for years. And the provincial politicians have preferred to build roads and bridges. Because that helps their friends make money (Moses was very popular with the construction companies). And they have always told municipal politicians that their voters will have to made to pay more for transit and at the same time refused to sanction new revenue sources.   

Of course what is really needed is to cancel the Gateway altogether and spend the money on more buses – and trains for existing tracks – as well as putting in measures that reduce the amount of space devoted to cars in order to increase the people carrying capacity of the network we now have. With a few strategically placed queue jumper lanes and a few more “traffic meter” stop lights on the on-ramps, Highway #1 is quite adequate as it is. Because – as Gordon Campbell says – a rapid transit line can carry the same as ten lanes of freeway.  If it has enough trains or buses that is!

Written by Stephen Rees

April 22, 2009 at 7:42 am

Posted in Gateway

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. There’s never any money for operating costs because it doesn’t attract media attention like a new monument does.

    Private enterprise, and our current Provincial government acts like one, always wants to make headlines for capital projects. I saw that while at UBC 20 years ago. There were millions of dollars for new buildings that would bear the name of a large donor while the existing buildings crumbled into disrepair and there wasn’t even enough staff to clean the floors regularly.

    Of course the mayors are right which is why Campbell won’t listen to them.


    April 22, 2009 at 10:31 am

  2. […] [The Vancouver Courier] Cambie All Access party and 54-40 concert on Sat Apr. 25! [Buzzer Blog] No new funds for Port Mann buses [Stephen Rees’s blog] ‘Ducking’ BC Rail Questions Doesn’t Fly with Experts [The […]

    re:place Magazine

    April 22, 2009 at 5:02 pm

  3. I’ve been watching the NYC documentary. Study after study has found that new roads just fill with cars. Or just as with junk, the number of vehicles expands to fill the space available. But they knew that 80 years ago!


    April 23, 2009 at 7:58 am

  4. The fundamental problem with the status quo politicians is that they cannot fathom peak oil price/supply fluctuations a year or so away, not twenty.
    Imagine, after all the expense and construction delay for a bigger Port Mann; the day it opens no one can afford the fuel to use it. Then it is observed that the road grades are practically useless for light rail. Why, they would have made more money for their development buddies if they had built a light rail network.
    Also, this treating a peak oil induced depression like a supply chain recession is incredibly dangerous in the medium run.

    Greg Aitken

    April 23, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: