Stephen Rees's blog

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

Massey Tunnel: Impact of Trucking

with 3 comments

The case for doing something about traffic congestion on both sides of the Massey Tunnel at peak periods is very strong. No-one would dispute that. What is in dispute is why that congestion occurs and what can be done about it.

This week the well known left wing cabal at the West Vancouver City Council reported that “Buses only 2% of vehicles that cross the Lions Gate Bridge but carry 25% of the people.” Actually the data came from Translink and is five years out of date but the principle holds. Single occupant vehicles are dreadfully wasteful of road space and are the cause of traffic congestion. Trying to get people to share their vehicles – there are usually at least three empty seats – has not been a huge success. If you could get everybody else to use the bus, then you would have lots of space to drive on – until all the other drivers caught on.

We know that widening roads and building ever wider bridges is a temporary fix at best. Actually what will happen if you cure the bottleneck at one point is that you simply shift it somewhere else. That is why no extra lanes were added to the Lions’ Gate Bridge  – and why a multi-lane expansion of Highway 99 across the Fraser won’t do very much either.

But in the case of the Massey Tunnel it is NOT all about traffic congestion. The Port wants to dredge a deeper channel to allow for bigger ships up the river. The tunnel is an obstacle to that ambition. The port also controls access to its operations – and has a policy of making congestion at the tunnel worse in order to promote its campaign for removal. Now that is an assertion that I am not able to back up with direct evidence. I have no way of eavesdropping on the conversations between board members. But John Berktyo – of Fraser Voices – has been doing some digging and this is what he found

Deltaport runs the business is a separate corporate entity from Port of Vancouver, which owns the land.  Deltaport is owned by DP World, headquartered in Dubai. It employs 37,000 people worldwide. Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem became Chairman of DP World on 30 May 2007. He is a citizen of the United Arab Emirates. Their Board of Directors is shown here: .

Their professed commitment to the environment and sustainability contacts are shown here:

The Deltaport web site is here:

Their hours of operation are here: way down page)

The hours are divided into  “day gate” and “night gate” as shown here on their website:

Standard Gate Hours:

Day Schedule:
MondayFriday: 08:00 – 15:59
Saturday– if required based on volume
*Closed Sunday

Night Schedule:
MondayFriday: 17:00 – 23:59
Saturday– if required, based on volume
*Closed Sunday

Please note: unlike other Ports which are open 24/7, Deltaport is normally open only 5 days a week. It will allow limited access on Saturday if they have no more room for containers and need container pickup ( “based on volume” ) to accommodate incoming container traffic (expensive to have a ship sit at anchor with a full load).

Regardless of the circumstances they are closed on Sunday (Day gate = normal operations). Rather than open at 6:00 am or be 24/7, they open at a leisurely 8:00 am, thereby forcing truck traffic on to the roads.  They close “day gate” normal operations at 3:59 in the afternoon, again forcing trucks into rush hour traffic. In summary, on a daily basis, they are only open for normal business for 7 hours of the day ( lunch hour included ). So in a normal day, as opposed to handling trucks for 24 hours (100% of the time), they are only open for normal operations 7 hours (29% of the time).  This is approximately 1/4 of the time, they could be normally open, so I think it would be fair to conclude that operations are being intentionally restricted, and that a consequence is snarled traffic.

Night gate = limited access hours. Night gate means (according to conversation with management, because it isn’t published anywhere) that access is restricted, and subject to higher tariffs for entry. In other words, “day gate” is the best and easiest time to access, and “night gate” is limited and restrictive (the details are apparently extensive and for truckers, no fun to deal with).

The port is totally closed to trucks from midnight to 08:00 every day that it normally opens.  Please note on their June 11, 2014 website news release found here: that on 2014 they announced that night gate would extend to 1:00am, not midnight, so one can only conclude that reversing that decision puts more trucks on the road, and that hours are being intentionally restricted.  INTERESTINGLY, the same June 11, 2014 news release clearly states their knowledge that, “ …..additional operating hours at the terminals will create 377 jobs (including direct, indirect and induced), reduce truck traffic and congestion during peak daytime hours, maximize the use of existing port infrastructure and create more opportunities for growth by offering a wider range of access times at the terminals for container truckers. These benefits will be achieved with no need for additional capital funding by the terminals or the governments.”

In other words, at no real cost, the Port is clearly aware that extended hours would create employment, clear traffic and maximize their use of the terminal. So why wouldn’t they, except to exacerbate the current traffic problem.

As the attachment shows from their daily schedule found here:   we can see that in the week Thursday March 30 to Wednesday April 5 by example, that the Port is CLOSED for 11 SHIFTS, and only OPEN FOR 10 shifts. Thats right, as opposed to being open 24/7, they are actually closed more than they are open. What business do you know of that can operate at 50% capacity ?  None.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 5.28.33 PM

Hope that clarifies matters. It appears that local Port management is knowingly and willingly restricting access to make it as hard on truckers as possible, and force them into rush hour traffic in order to grow support for the bridge.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 31, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Transportation

3 Responses

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  1. You raise good points. In addition, the dredging of the river to accommodate the larger ships would be massive undertaking since the moratorium on dredging is at least 20 years old and, an operational nightmare. Twin the tunnel with dedicated transit HOV lanes, and open the deltaport facilities to off peak hours.


    April 1, 2017 at 8:58 am

  2. This is a very important point. One of the irksome results is that the Port Metro bigwigs somehow convinced the BC Libs via BC taxpayers to subsidize their operations by opening the channel to dredging with an unnecessary mega bridge supposedly justified on truck traffic. Anyone want to bet the Port will change its hours of operation when / if the bridge gets built?

    Alex Botta

    April 10, 2017 at 12:12 pm

  3. FYI, here is the most recent data on truck volumes in the region.

    Click to access 2014_truck_classification_and_dangerous_goods_survey_report.pdf

    Clark Lim

    May 5, 2017 at 12:03 am

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