Stephen Rees's blog

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

Upper Levels Highway Study

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Corridor study launched for Upper Levels Highway
Upper Levels Highway BC MOTI photo from flickr Creative Commons license

Bowinn Ma isn’t interested in ad hoc highway expansion. So she has commissioned a study.

“Under the scope of the work, Parsons will assess how the highway is doing under current volumes as well as project demand up to 2050, including what local government priorities are and how a potential expansion of the B.C. Ferries terminal at Horseshoe Bay would funnel more cars onto the road.”

“Transportation systems have to be treated as systems. It’s important that we have these long-term plans in place if we actually want to start to address the problem.”

Well yes having a long term plan is a good start – but only if you stick to the plan. And a transportation plan by itself is actually counter productive. There has to be a land use plan as well and that has to fit into a broader regional perspective. If anyone has been reading this blog over the years knows, we used to do regional plans like this at one time – and then the BC Liberals got elected – and re-elected – over 16 years and those plans were simply ignored.

Developers like Jack Poole got a lot more attention than people who had been talking about what “increasing transportation choice” might mean. And while SkyTrain was expanded – a bit – much more got spent on moving congestion around. The North Shore has a railway – but it was essentially given away to CN. It might have served as both a connector to the rest of the region over the Second Narrows Bridge and improving travel options up Howe Sound to the interior. The needs of the Olympics at Whistler would have been more than adequately met – but that got sidelined when the developers insisted that this was an opportunity to increase car commuting into Metro from places like Squamish – directly in contradiction to the long term strategic plans of both regions. The idea had been to limit sprawl and reduce car dependency but that did not suit the paymasters of the BC Liberals.

Since Bowinn Ma does not believe in that policy she will have to do more than just have a highway study

“Most studies have shown adding new lanes for general traffic use only invites more people to drive, quickly negating the expensive project’s sought-after improvements, a concept known as induced demand, Ma said.”

I would not say “most” – I think it is all – or at least every one with any credibility. But it is not enough to talk about other modes – you also have to talk about what creates the demand for trips – and that is land use. Because North American planners are still stuck on separating out land uses and resisting mixed uses – and are wedded to zoning – trips are much longer than they need to be. You are simply not allowed to live over the shop in most of the region – which is the way urban humanity has always lived right up until the invention of the internal combustion engine. And a few decades after that when cars were viewed with skepticism. The attitudes of the vociferous in Ambleside show that there is going to be an uphill struggle to change attitudes about what sort of land use changes are essential to reduce motorised travel demand. And the topography of the North Shore is also going to be an issue. Note that Ms Ma bought herself an ebike. I trust it was one that will provide power when starting from rest on an incline. Because that gets defined as a motor vehicle by our legislation.

And if we are changing legislation, lets get rid of mandatory adult cycle helmets while we are about it – and provide lots more protected, separated bike lanes, which actually provide some real safety results.

By the way, it is worth comparing the Ministry’s picture (above) with that used by the North Shore News.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 12, 2019 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Transportation, Urban Planning

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3 Responses

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  1. In Portland, Oregon, the bicycle lanes are half the width of regular car lanes. People respect that. My daughter and son-in-law rode bicycles to work regularly. My son-in-law’s company has locker room for staff to get changed to work. Their friend has been riding his bike to work for nine years.

    Miriam Hurdle

    November 12, 2019 at 8:46 pm

  2. I used to cycle to work too. The need to change clothing after riding seems to be confined to North America, where cycling is still regarded more as a sport or fitness activity than transportation. The Netherlands has a very high rate of cycle use – but nearly everyone rides in their everyday clothes at a gentle pace on an upright bike, and has no need to change at their destination. Of course they have far more safe, separated and protected bike paths than we do.

    Stephen Rees

    November 13, 2019 at 11:24 am

  3. i don’t change or shower and i don’t smell 🙂 and i’ve been bicycling to work for 12 years. but i bicycle slowly with an average speed of <18km/h on a 1946 Schwinn "ladies bike" which for short commutes like mine (5km) is the best commuter bicycle ever! <—- i see a lot of people on the Vancouver bicycle paths bicycling much faster; i bet they take showers 🙂 I also see more and more people riding slowly and more upright; significant minority and slowly growing!

    Roland Tanglao

    November 13, 2019 at 9:14 pm


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