Stephen Rees's blog

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

The Case for Replacing the Massey Tunnel

with 32 comments


You will understand that I approach this with a background in trying to integrate transportation and regional planning. It is what I have been doing for the last 50 years, one way and another. Experience has shown us that simply building freeways as a way of dealing with traffic congestion is ineffective. As the capacity of the system is increased, the traffic gets worse, simply due to the almost immediate impact of induced demand, but in the longer term by the changes brought about in land use. Essentially expanding road capacity encourages more car trips, most of which are made in single occupant vehicles. This is about the most inefficient use of transportation infrastructure we could possibly devise. A lane of freeway can move 2,000 vehicles per hour – or 2,500 people more or less. Car occupancy in this region has been generally higher than the rest of North America – but not by very much. The same width of lane used for transit increases the potential capacity to 20,000 people per hour.

The Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) was designed to tackle this issue, by controls on land use and changing the priorities for transportation provision. We said we would build a compact urban region, with complete communities that would protect green space and increase transportation choice. The province of BC was part of that agreement but in the last ten years has decided unilaterally to behave as though it did not exist. The freeways have been widened, land owned by the provincial government has been released for development and resources for better transit have been almost but not entirely restricted to one or two major projects.

Replacing the Massey Tunnel and widening the freeway from the Oak Street Bridge to the US border was never part of the RGS. It spoke about increasing the utilisation of the existing highway by promoting the use of higher occupancy vehicles. It is no coincidence that the man most responsible for getting car sharing going here was a cranberry farmer, Jack Bell. Arguments about how to define an HOV were key to the establishment of Translink: the then Mayor of Delta insisted on 2+ for Highway 17/99 or she wasn’t going to sign on.

I think it is fair to say that most people were surprised when Christy Clark announced her plan for a massive new bridge. Most people were unaware that this was in the works – and had been for some time. But that had little to do with the conventional land use transportation framework or the regional growth strategy. It was driven by the Port of Vancouver. In fact the process has been remarkably similar to the one than led to the widening of Highway #1 and the new Port Mann Bridge. The Gateway Council was front and center – but as we now know the trucks are not using the new tolled crossing so much as the grossly overloaded and inadequate Patullo Bridge – pouring more traffic onto city streets in New Westminster. Everything that the RGS was supposed to avoid.

The process by which we have got to the present has been carefully documented by Douglas Massey: the son of the man for whom the tunnel was named. He has given me permission to place his work here as a pdf file. The Vision to Build the George Massey Tunnel & the Road to its Removal Jan 19 2016. [Please note that on February 2, 2016 I replaced the file with a revised version that contains the complete document] Here are a couple of key paragraphs to show you why you need to read the whole thing.

The intention of this document is to show the intent from day one that any crossing of the Lower Fraser River, from the Gulf of Georgia to New Westminster, shall not and will not be granted approval unless it meets the approval of the present and future needs of Harbour Boards and industry, never mind the needs of the people, their environment, or the sustainability of the Lower Fraser River for fish and wildfowl.

Port Metro Vancouver, Vice President Duncan Wilson, was quoted in a letter to the editor of Richmond Review on July of 2015, “The depth of the river is also a limitation. While the removal of the tunnel may create greater depth at that point in the river, the amount of dredging required on either side of the former tunnel would be extensive and potentially cost prohibitive.”

The facts are: that in order for the proposed 14.5m depth to be achieved and maintained, the George Massey Tunnel would have to be removed along with GVWD 30” water main (costs yet to be determined) along with a one- time dredging cost of $200 million, and an estimated annual dredging costs of $30 million. There would be other costs, before any dredging to deepen the Lower Fraser River could take place:(1) The cost of a full hydrological study that would have to be undertaken, to determine what effects this would have on the sustainability of its ecosystem to support fish and wildlife. (2) The effects it would have on the existing dikes and the costs to rebuild them if necessary. (3) Determining if the deepening would result in the salinity advancing too far up river and affecting the ability of the farmers to use the water for irrigation.

All during these discussions there has been little to no discussion about the need for a new river crossing to alleviate the congestion for people and their vehicles. The, emphasis of all previous and present discussions has been on the moving of bulk cargo. Any new crossing of the Lower Fraser River should be to improve the movement of people and not just to make it possible for the complete industrialization and dredging of the Lower Fraser River, at the expense of the river’s ecosystem, that is so vital for its sustainability and ability to preserve its fish and wetlands that are so significant to the survival of the wildfowl and mankind. Prepared by: Douglas George Massey

It seems to me that we are repeating the same pattern we saw with the Gateway. The arguments to justify the expansion of the freeways – and the building of the South Fraser Perimeter Road – were always about trucks. But the real agenda is to encourage the typical pattern of suburban sprawl that the RGS was supposed to deter. It is clear that the BC Liberals care very little about sustainability: transit, walkability, greenhouse gas reduction get verbal acknowledgement – mostly PR fluff – but the actual decision making is always based on business as usual. And not even growth based on what we can do, and are doing well. But rather the things that we have always done – which turn out to be both of little economic value and also come with huge environmental costs.

We can see why they wanted to improve the Sea to Sky – it opened up land for development in places where the regional growth plan had been careful to restrict reliance on long distance commuting into Metro Vancouver. The Port Mann Bridge is tolled, and is carrying less traffic than the old bridge as a result, but none of the rest of widened highway #1 is tolled. The Golden Ears opens up Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge in a way that the ferry never could have coped with. The SFPR and now a widened Highway 99 clearly will promote more sprawl in Delta. It is already apparent and will increasingly threaten the ALR. But as we have seen with Site C, the BC Liberals care not at all about the ability to grow our own food, now or in the future. Their treatment of wolves and bears shows how little ecology is understood.

Port expansion and the reliance on LNG are dangerous nonsense. Climate change is the most important challenge we face, but it is also an opportunity to develop new ways of being. The old model of ripping out resources and disposing of waste carelessly cannot continue. But we already have far more of our GDP coming from a new economy that could potentially be supported by renewable resources. We have huge potential for wind, wave, geothermal and solar energy. We do not need Site C – nor is there a viable market now for LNG. We do need to reduce the use of fossil fuel powered single occupant vehicles. We can grow much more of our own food. California is not going to be able to feed itself let alone us. We must protect the ALR and we do need better ways to get around than driving ourselves for every purpose. We know how to do that. Why does Christy Clark not understand any of this and why is she stuck in the 1950’s? And how can we make sure she never gets elected to anything again?


It seems the staff at Metro Vancouver share my concerns

The biggest implications, the report noted, was concern over how the proposed bridge would affect the region’s growth management strategy, which aims to get more people out of their cars and living and working in denser town centres around transit stations so as to preserve agricultural and industrial land.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 29, 2016 at 9:53 am

32 Responses

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  1. Stephen, you say, “Replacing the Massey Tunnel and widening the freeway from the Oak Street Bridge to the US border was never part of the RGS. ”

    Well, we expect not. The RGS documentation clearly states that the Highway 99 and crossing is provincial responsibility.

    What the RGS document does say though is this:

    “Coordinate land use and transportation to support the safe and
    efficient movement of vehicles for passengers, goods and services.”

    The document also clearly states that:

    “6.7.2 Metro Vancouver will collaborate with TransLink and the federal government and the province and their agencies on major investments in the regional transportation system, …”

    This statement requires Metro Vancouver and Translink to collaborate with the province on areas of their responsibility. That being the Massey Bridge and Highway 99 project.

    This will further fulfill other commitments by Metro Vancouver for “safe and efficient movement of vehicles for passengers, goods and services.”

    Since Metro Vancouver adopted the RGS as a bylaw; “RECONSIDERED, PASSED, AND FINALLY ADOPTED this 29th day of July, 2011”, then collaboration is required by their own Metro Vancouver law.

    The division of powers is fundamental to this country. Just the same as it being inconceivable that the federal government would have any influence on education policy in a province or in school board, it is equally wrong for a regional board to attempt to step outside of its responsibilities and attempt to influence provincial policies.

    Port Vancouver is increasing needed to provide industry and employment to the region, as well as massive financial benefits. If the expansion of port activities is anticipated with an enlarged Deas channel then this should be strongly welcomed and applauded.


    January 29, 2016 at 11:36 am

  2. You are overlooking an important fact, Eric. The province did not collaborate on any major road project, Port Mann, SFPR, Highway One, Massey …. none of them. It’s been my way and the highway all along.

    When the BC Liberals want to “collaborate” with junior governments and agencies on transportation projects outside of roads it’s in the form of imposed processes, the most recent being the unnecessary plebiscite on the only other viable form of land transport there is, and a far more efficient one at that.

    On Massey, there is no such thing as a division of powers, let alone an open planning process.


    January 29, 2016 at 12:23 pm

  3. Sorry Eric but that final paragraph of your comment makes no sense.

    The expansion of the port is to allow for coal, taken from US federal lands, to be exported to Asia for power generation. The previous intention was to tranship from trains to barges in Surrey Fraser Docks for loading onto to ships at a new terminal on Texada Island. The new bridge would cut out the need for barges and transhipment. No west coast port has been able to persuade its local population to tolerate this traffic. That’s why it’s headed to Canada: our ports do not answer to the locals. BUT the use of thermal coal for power generation is rapidly being reduced in Asia. Solar and wind are both cheaper and neither produces any local air pollution. The present administration is not permitting expansion of coal extraction on federal lands. If global warming deniers are not successful at taking over the White House in November, I expect that their commitments to COP21 will mean coal exports will be reduced.

    Siting an LNG export plant upstream from Massey makes no sense whatever from a safety perspective, and in present market conditions makes so financial sense either.

    The port’s contribution to regional GDP is nothing like as significant as you appear to believe, and to employment even less.

    If this is such a good project – as you suggest – then why has there not been an adequate evaluation process? The so called “business case” is deficient. There is simply no data presented. And a proper environmental assessment has not been done because under the last federal government, there was no “need” for one.

    Stephen Rees

    January 29, 2016 at 12:39 pm

  4. It is well known that increasing road capacity will induce more traffic and foster sprawl. In fact, it is now believed that the ALR may well be threatened by car-dependent sprawl induced by the new Massey Bridge and other massive road projects. There are other weak rationalizations for the bridge / freeway (port activity, commercial trucking, etc.) but more sprawl will inevitably be one of the central byproducts.

    Todd Litman, transportation planner principle with the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, recently wrote a well-referenced report that analytically compares Smart Growth communities to sprawling communities in many jurisdictions. This research dovetails with Stephen’s post. It’s clear that greater personal space (big yards, big and numerous cars, big roads) has a greater collective cost on society in cities.

    Some of the research results:

    – Burchell and Mukherji (2003) found that sprawl increases local road lane-miles 10%, annual public service costs about 10%, and housing development costs about 8%, increasing total costs an average of $13,000 per dwelling unit, or about $550 in annualized costs.

    – More compact development could save Calgary, Canada, about a third in capital costs and 14% in operating costs for roads, transit services, water and wastewater, emergency response, recreation services and schools (IBI 2008).

    – A Charlotte, North Carolina study found that a fire station in a low-density neighborhood with disconnected streets serves one-quarter the number of households at four times the cost of an otherwise identical fire station in a more compact and connected neighborhood (CDOT 2012).

    – Analyzing per capita municipal spending on public services in 8,600 municipalities of Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico, de Duren and Compeán (2015) found that municipal service efficiencies are optimized at a relatively dense 90 residents per hectare. They conclude that this result provides supports policies that encourage densification, particularly in medium-sized cities of developing countries, which are currently absorbing most of the world’s urban population growth.

    – A detailed analysis of 2,500 Spanish municipal budgets found that lower-density development increases per capita costs of providing local services (Rico and Solé-Ollé 2013). The study found that in lower density urban areas with less than 25 residents per acre, each 1% increase in urban land area per capita increases municipal costs by 0.11%. Of this, 21% is due to increased basic infrastructure costs, 17% to increased culture and sports program costs, 13% to increased housing and community development costs, 12% to increased community facilities costs, 12% to an increased general administration costs, and 6% due to increased local policing costs.

    – Using data from three U.S. case studies, the study, Smart Growth & Conventional Suburban Development: Which Costs More? (Ford 2010) found that more compact residential development can reduce infrastructure costs by 30-50% compared with conventional suburban development.

    – Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development (SGA 2013) found that Smart Growth development costs one-third less for upfront infrastructure costs and saves an average of 10% of ongoing public services costs.

    Click to access sg_save.pdf


    January 29, 2016 at 1:41 pm

  5. MB; the province was prepared to allow Metro Vancouver another level of taxation, if the people wanted it. The Premier and all her ministers supported the referendum as written and designed by Metro Vancouver. It didn’t pass. It went down to a massive defeat.

    The decimation of TransLink by the dismissal of many longtime high-level employees at the top, both during and after the disastrous referendum tells us clearly that something’s wrong over there. Just as the people and the outgoing temporary CEO just told us.

    Stephen; The port -“International commerce and trade is a key sector for Vancouver’s economy. The city has Canada’s largest port and is one of North America’s major gateways for pan-Pacific trade. The Port of Vancouver ranks first in North America in total foreign exports and second on the west coast in total cargo volume. The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest and most diversified port, trading more than $43 billion in goods with more than 90 trading economies annually. Port activities generate 69,200 jobs in total with $4 billion in gross domestic product and $8.9 billion in economic output.”

    You may scoff. I see lots of jobs and lots of bucks.

    This project is attracting late comers to to the usual nay side. The project was announced in 2012. We are now in 2016.

    There were many naysayers when the Liberals proposed the Canada Line. Who would suggest now that this was not a damned good project?

    The NDP tried to cancel the BC Carbon Tax that is now the reference point for taxing carbon. The NDP “Axe The Tax” certainly didn’t endear them to we environmentalists.

    Many naysayers don’t like the Port Mann Bridge, although it has achieved many necessary and desired objectives. The congestion has gone, so pollution is reduced and the traffic is reduced due to the toll cost and the buses now flow freely too.

    Douglas Massey’s sentimental nostalgia for a 60 year old tunnel is somewhat understandable but only because he’s family.


    January 29, 2016 at 1:58 pm

  6. MB – Don’t fret over the ALR, the grand Metro Plan states: “2.3.4 Work with the Agricultural Land Commission to protect the region’s agricultural land base and not amend the Agricultural or Rural land use designation of a site if it is still part of the Agricultural Land Reserve, except to change it to an Agricultural land use designation.” It ain’t going anywhere. But, the people are and absent sufficient numbers of modest houses for young people that want to start a family, or just have a modest place of their own, other than a condo-box in the sky, the people a gravitating to the suburbs. Vancouver is seeing it’s share of growth too. Both groups have to be considered and blocking roads into the city is not practical. Even with the daily frustrations with the little tunnel, the south and the south east continue to outpace the growth rate of Vancouver.

    Make no mistake. I like compact cities. I only write to advise what I perceive. Although, I must confess that a new bridge is desperately needed to remove this painful, time wasting, flight-missing, pollution creating, fuel wasting, CO2 generating, stress and anger and blood-pressure rising and cruel bottleneck.


    January 29, 2016 at 2:14 pm

  7. You see lots of jobs and dollars – but that is because it is presented without any context. Yes those look like big numbers – but note that there is no reference to the totals. What sort of percentage is that? And why talk about the value of the goods you are moving – that’s stuff just passing through. How much of that gets to stay here? There are not many jobs unloading a container ship: couple of crane drivers, a few truckers.

    You want some data? Try this

    The Canada Line would have got my vote as “a damned good project” if the profits from it were not being syphoned off by private sector contractors. If it had been built as a bored tube (as promised) and not caused years of disruption, bankrupting small businesses who were not compensated. if the stations had more than one exit/entrance and the ability to accommodate longer trains as traffic grew. If the trains could be operated more frequently without a financial penalty to Translink (i.e. us taxpayers). But no, this was a P3 built down to a minimized spec not up to a standard. Very short term thinking for a long life project. See many posts on this subject here.

    There are alternatives to a $3bn bridge – but these were ignored. Just as improving rail to Whistler was ignored as a way of serving the Olympics. Just as the #555 bus could have been operating years earlier without a new Port Mann bridge or doubling the size of the freeway. There is always another way of doing things but Christy Clark only knows of one way, and refuses to contemplate any other.

    Stephen Rees

    January 29, 2016 at 2:16 pm

  8. Eric, “allowing” the Metro another layer of taxation on transit and not on roads has divided the community with the premier’s arrogance. There is huge hole in your commentary when you harp on the transit tax and not on the massive debt piled up on road projects over the last decade. The hole grows into a Metro-scale vacuum when you also ignore — purposely, I have to add — the permanent 100% operating cost deficits of roads. Transit here has a 50% operating cost recovery through the transit toll, otherwise known as the farebox.


    January 29, 2016 at 4:08 pm

  9. So Stephen says the Canada Line runs at a profit and MB says transit brings in only 50% of the costs.

    Who’s zooming who?

    Yes, the Canada Line was squeezed in with little trains and little stations but TransLink’s arms had to be twisted to even get the mini version approved. I also agree that the tunnel should have been bored.

    Remember too that it was Jean Chrétien’s federal Liberals that demanded the project be a P3.

    By the way MB. The community was divided, yes. 2 to 1 against and now Insights West tells us that over half the population approves of the Massey Bridge Project, even a majority in Vancouver. Out in the venal vinyl ‘burbs the approval ratings are in the high numbers.


    January 29, 2016 at 4:37 pm

  10. By the way. If the Canada Line is running at a profit and TransLink only recovers half their operating costs then we can be assured that more and more P3s will be called for.

    We really must privatize a substantial amount of our transit needs.


    January 29, 2016 at 4:40 pm

  11. Eric – one more comment like this will get you blocked. Look back to what I wrote. I did not say “the Canada Line runs at a profit”. I said that the contractor has to get his profit out of operating the line. That is because private sector business only continues to exist when it is in profit. Under the BC Liberals everything has to be profitable to some private sector outfit – which means the revenue stream goes to the shareholders. That is why so many things now cost us more than they need to. Privatisation has been a disaster for public services.

    Stephen Rees

    January 29, 2016 at 4:54 pm

  12. I’m frightfully sorry old chap. Were you to have phrased it a tad different I would have perchance veered away from being lumbered with a bunch of cobblers and that, in fact, the till was empty and that was all down to the builders demanding a fat wad off the top.

    Anyway, no need to get into a tiz-woz. It’s not like it was a Brit Rai P1.


    January 29, 2016 at 7:53 pm

  13. Eric; you seem so consistently determined to be “right”, yet each time you pile on more fodder for deconstruction. And then you try to be witty. Fail.


    January 30, 2016 at 6:09 am

  14. Lets keep our eye on the ball fella’s.

    Do we feel the process has been fair, transparent and meaningful? Do we feel the province has made a case for this mega 3.5 BILLION dollar new bridge? Does this project take us in the right direction? Do we feel that the significant cost for the Massey Tunnel replacement Bridge will render a major improvement to the transportation system in Metro Vancouver?

    The answer to all these questions is NO.

    If this bridge is built it will require most of our tax dollars and take us back 40 years in term of getting a light rapid system to Delta and Surrey. This bridge will be a monument to the automobile and do the opposite of what we want, rather than taking people out of their cars, it will encourage them to drive their cars.

    Any modern progressive city has a effective transportation system of bus and rail that moves people quickly and effectively, If Metro Vancouver is to be a world class city we need a light rail system that mirrors other significant cities like London. New York, and Copenhagen. Our electric trains are better for the environment and should be expanded to corridors with high ridership such as south of the Fraser river and the Broadway run.

    Our Governments needs to understand that the primary purpose of the south Fraser river crossings should be moving traffic NOT shipping and NOT industrialization of the river.

    Please keep your message clear and demonstrate to the Federal and Provincial governments that we expect smart decisions that are based on facts and not hidden agenda’s.

    Carol Day

    January 30, 2016 at 8:12 am

  15. I thought Stephen was right when he talked about profits. I distinctly remember TransLink saying that the Canada Line would require 100,000 riders per day to be viable. The latest numbers from a couple of years ago tell us that daily ridership is ~135,000. Is the contract with InTransit BC such that this extra revenue is all forfeited?

    China will be using coal and natural gas for a few decades yet. Renewables are still less than 2%. The U.S. Dept of Energy recently reported.

    “Coal supplied the majority (nearly 66%) of China’s total energy consumption in 2012. The second-largest source was petroleum and other liquids, accounting for nearly 20% of the country’s total energy consumption. Although China has made an effort to diversify its energy supplies, hydroelectric sources (8%), natural gas (5%), nuclear power (nearly 1%), and other renewables (more than 1%) accounted for relatively small shares of China’s energy consumption. The Chinese government plans to cap coal use to 62% of total primary energy consumption by 2020 in an effort to reduce heavy air pollution that has afflicted certain areas of the country in recent years. China’s National Energy Agency claims that coal use dropped to 64.2% of energy consumption in 2014.5 The Chinese government set a target to raise non-fossil fuel energy consumption to 15% of the energy mix by 2020 and to 20% by 2030 in an effort to ease the country’s dependence on coal. In addition, China is currently increasing its use of natural gas to replace some coal and oil as a cleaner burning fossil fuel and plans to use natural gas for 10% of its energy consumption by 2020. Even though absolute coal consumption is expected to increase over the long term as total energy consumption rises, higher energy efficiency and China’s goal to increase environmental sustainability are likely to lead to a decrease in coal’s share.”

    There certainly are still opportunities for exporting both coal and natural gas.

    Then there’s India. The fourth largest, and growing, user of energy that is also moving more to using natural gas, or LNG. The price of LNG has declined substantially since the oil glut. Could be a good time to develop the industry now.


    January 30, 2016 at 8:14 am

  16. Thank you Stephen for your entry. Obviously it has started a valid discussion. The urban sprawl this bridge will bring to Delta will lay waste to a large portion (if not all) of the Delta farmlands which have some of the best climatic conditions in Canada. The nearby Vancouver market it provides will need to be more reliant on imports if this happens and we have seen in the last several months what that does to food costs. The bridge does nothing to follow present day “Smart Growth Principles”. These are some of the reasons why Delta and Richmond people are opposed to this project. The bridge will not improve Metro Vancouver transit and transportation infrastructure. It will only do harm. The additional strain on the Oak and Knight Street corridors will turn both areas into parking lots during during an extended rush-hour.

    It is truly sad to see that in this day and age planning decisions are turned into political decisions. Metro Vancouver needs properly planned traffic and transit infrastructure if it is to sustain even present levels of growth. Carol Day is entirely right when she tells us to let our governments know the present plan is not good enough! If the Federal Government holds back on Infrastructure money the Province may have to rethink the present plan.

    Peter Van Der Velden

    January 30, 2016 at 1:12 pm

  17. Some more important background on the Hwy 99 bus lanes and the mostly forgotten RapidBus BC promises. In 2007 / 2008 Gordon Campbell’s Libs said the tunnel didn’t need to be replaced, because RapidBus BC.

    “This dedicated bus lane will move transit riders past rush-hour congestion on one of the busiest stretches of Highway 99 northbound,” said Falcon. “When we provide transit options like this that are quicker and more convenient than the single-occupant vehicle, we’ll get people out of their cars and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” . . .

    RapidBus BC is a key pillar of the Provincial Transit Plan. Commuters riding RapidBus BC will get high quality, point-to-point service with minimal stops along a number of high-profile corridors in the Lower Mainland, including Highway 99 in both directions between White Rock and Richmond.

    Eric Doherty

    January 30, 2016 at 1:56 pm

  18. Peter; Why would the federal government hold back on infrastructure money over a bridge, when Trudeau just told Montreal that the federal government will pay the entire $5 billion for the new Champlain Bridge and will also pay the annual upkeep costs?


    January 30, 2016 at 2:54 pm

  19. Eric Doherty; The bus uses that new lane. The promise was kept.


    January 30, 2016 at 5:39 pm

  20. Eric Nolastname,

    And the fast frequent RapidBus BC service promised? Not even mentioned these days.

    Transit service from Delta to Richmond was cut instead.

    Eric Doherty

    January 30, 2016 at 6:03 pm

  21. Eric, you are an amateur cherry picker. The comparison in operating cost recovery was between the Metro’s transit system (50%) and roads (0%).

    Your assertions that because the Canada Line makes a profit, P3s should be pushed into the region more doesn’t pass the sniff test. The private consortium diluted the design to save money on construction (even you harp on that), it assumed much higher capital construction financing and long term debt servicing costs (the public sector has a higher credit rating and lower financial risk and thus is offered significantly lower preferred rates), it changed the rolling stock and therein ensured a permanent separation from the rest of the regional rapid transit system, and to add insult to injury, it provides inadequate service at rush hour. It wrangled a clause in the contract to charge higher change order rates on operating schedules, and TransLink has to pay through the nose to increase train frequencies to a bit higher than 3 minutes at rush hours. SkyTrain achieves 75-second frequencies at rush hour downtown by comparison. This is an absurd situation because the additional costs of running more trains an hour is negligible with driverless technology.

    Further, the Canada Line profits are hauled out of the region and into the pockets of the owners and company shareholders. In a public transit system, the profits are usually reinvested in the system to increase efficiency and meet higher demand.

    In short, I would conclude that P3s are bad for the business of building and running a public transit system. I would go as far to suggest that TransLink or possibly the feds when designing their infrastructure financing tranches should look into buying out the Canada Line operating contract. The thing stretches over 35 years so the cost of doing so, though perhaps seeming initially high, may actually garner millions in savings by the end of the period. Someone should look into it. If it works out, then it would be no sweat to put those unused trains sitting in the yard on the tracks at rush hour.

    Regarding the ALR, the protection clause you quoted does not exist in any provincial government policy document, let alone in the Massey information packages. The province is the main proponent of the removal of hundreds of hectares of prime ALR land in the vicinity already, and they are also looking into changing the ALR / ALC policy to make it easier to exclude more land. The key in this mountainous province is to conserve the most productive soils, not to trade the superior quality Lower Mainland farmland for the dregs up north as part of a political calculation to maintain a “balance” in terms of total area.


    January 30, 2016 at 6:09 pm

  22. Eric Doherty; The bus is not mentioned, you say. I’m not sure what you mean.
    What’s called a Rapid Bus on this route only stops a few times. This is a service operated by TransLink, I guess. It’s the 351 bus, I believe. Why did TransLink cut service to Delta? Lack of demand? What does this have to do with the subject at hand?


    January 30, 2016 at 6:38 pm

  23. MB; Why would the feds contemplate buying out the Canada Line P3 consortium when it was they who insisted on it? As they will for any new ‘deal’. Fortunately, money has never been cheaper, so this is the right time to borrow and invest in needed infrastructure. This is what Canadians expected from this new Liberal federal government. This is was British Columbians and overwhelming, what Metro Vancouver wants.

    After looking through the extensive documentation for the business case for the Massey Tunnel one starts to realize just how incredibly beneficial it will be for transit, cyclists and, above all, the environment.


    January 30, 2016 at 7:00 pm

  24. […] Mortensen and others think this latest post from Stephen Rees must be posted on posted on Price […]

  25. Going with a P3 arrangement introduces a lot of changes from a pure government project. The cost of borrowing goes up, the cost of labour goes down, the public may be forced to pay the operator if traffic counts are too low, the public may be forced to pay penalties if traffic counts are too high, etc.

    But even if we ignore all of those difficult to assess changes, there is one thing that private operators expect that public projects do not: long term profits.

    Over at the Canada Line that means TransLink is going to spend an additional $3 billion (probably a lot more) making sure the private operator makes a reasonable rate of return. Where was the Canadian Taxpayers Federation outrage over that deal?


    January 31, 2016 at 4:49 pm

  26. Eric, the critique is on P3s and their historic mixed-results performance in several countries under a plethora of leadership philosophies. I maintain that giving the private sector design, financing, construction, management and operational control too heavily loads one side of a normally balanced scale. Even with 100% public sector control of the project design, construction and operations (otherwise known as a standard tendering and management process), private sector consultants, contractors and suppliers are already heavily involved.

    The BC Liberals (and before them the Socreds) have a political donation list filled to overflowing with the very firms and consortium members who usually win these closed-bid design-build-operate contracts. Most of the provincial cabinet support the federal Conservatives. There is little evidence that the federal Liberals have the same donors or infrastructure building philosophy in their cabinet. The expectation of the public in the last federal election was overwhelmingly for change, and that election was the only referendum required on the Liberal mandate which included major expenditures on infrastructure. Trudeau went out of his way to make specific promises on transit spending in Vancouver and Surrey.

    Your comment on the environmental benefit of the Massey project is a joke. If you claim it is serious, then you live in a parallel universe there the laws of Physics do not exist.


    February 1, 2016 at 11:21 am

  27. The troll who has been posting to this thread as “Eric” – the one with no declared surname – has been added to the bad boys list. Further submissions from him will not appear unless they add something of value to the discussion.

    Stephen Rees

    February 1, 2016 at 3:56 pm

  28. Just a reminder that “Dangerous Goods” (anything requiring a placard under the Federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992) are not permitted to be carried through tunnels.

    The Tunnel Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulation under the BC Transportation Act sets out this prohibition for the George Massey Tunnel and the Cassiar Connector Tunnel.

    So in that respect, a new bridge would allow a greater proportion of truck traffic to use Highway 99.


    February 3, 2016 at 5:46 pm

  29. Guest, true enough. I’d also suggest the tunnel’s construction prior to the 1980 updated Building Code with respect to seismic engineering is also a valid consideration.

    But one of the main points here is that a replacement of four lanes with 10 is extraordinarily excessive, especially considering the associated expansion of the connecting freeway and interchanges. Some of us really question the motives behind this and other exceedingly massive road projects and believe there may be ulterior motives. Commercial truck traffic does not economically or physically justify this project. To state so is an egregious error and is indicative of selective research. Knowing the BC Libs one also has to suspect that their real estate and road contractor donors are whispering in their ears. I also note that the back room review of ALC / ALR policies is occurring at the same time.


    February 4, 2016 at 12:42 pm

  30. I see the reasoning for the 10 lanes though:

    – The current rush hour base case is 3 lanes in the rush hour direction, 1 lane opposite. So in the rush hour direction, that’s equivalent to a 6 lane bridge (without reversing lanes).

    – If you want an HOV lane, do you convert 2 of those 6 lanes (yielding a 4 lane bridge equivalent for general traffic) or do you add 2 lanes to make 8 lanes? Arguably, 2 general traffic lanes in each direction is insufficient (otherwise we wouldn’t have the current reversible lanes).

    – With the height of the bridge, you need a climbing lane in each direction for truck traffic (remember, that’s why the 5th lane was added eastbound to the old Port Mann Bridge, so the trucks leaving Pacific Reach Business Park could climb onto the bridge without clogging the bridge – and if you travel the Alex Fraser Bridge, the curb lane is quite slow with climbing trucks (you also see truck climbing lanes on Hwy 1 in Abbotsford and on the Coquihalla Hwy). So do you use 2 of the 8 lanes for the truck climbing lanes (again, yielding a 4 lane bridge equivalent for faster moving general traffic) or add 2 lanes?

    You can see the possible (not final) lane configurations posted at the GMT website here:

    Click to access PDR-Concept-Dec-2015.pdf

    You can see that lanes are added and dropped at interchanges over the course of the Hwy 99 alignment.

    The highway is 3 lanes (1 HOV, 2 general purpose) in each direction just south of Oak St. Bridge. The HOV merges back into the fast lane (other than buses which have an overpass) and Bridgeport traffic merges with the slow lane – to make 2 lanes for Oak Street Bridge.


    February 4, 2016 at 1:42 pm

  31. PS – you can also see the proposed bus stations on those plans. The proposal suggests a cross-cross configuration with a centre platform to get the bus doors onto the platform side (this reduces right of way width and allows use of generic buses that load from the righthand side).

    This platform configuration is used on the Los Angeles Silver Line (Harbour freeway) BRT line. Pics of the SIlver Line station that uses the configuration are here:


    February 4, 2016 at 1:51 pm

  32. That’s quite an elaborate justification for the second local version of the widest bridge in the world.

    Still, there is precedence out there for more reasonable solutions in jurisdictions with far more population and international freight traffic. Take, for example, the Oresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark. It’s four (4) lanes of road are accompanied by a double-tracked rail service on a lower deck. It is the only direct physical link between the 20 million people of Sweden, Norway and Finland to continental Europe. Mind you, the Fins could go hellbent overland through Russia, the Baltic states and Poland, but that still leaves ~15 million Scandinavians with only one direct land link.

    At a finer scale, the Oresund joins Copenhagen to Malmo with a combined population of ~2 million. Four lanes and two tracks between two major cities with just a bit lower population than Metro Vancouver.

    I just don’t buy that 10-lane monstrosities are needed here, and suspect there may be a hidden agenda that is being written behind closed doors. Either that or the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is filled with insecure males who have an irrational need to prove something.


    February 4, 2016 at 6:05 pm

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