Still in Australia at a planning conference, so blogging will be light (hope to have some images up in the next few days) – but can’t resist weighing in on the Premier’s announcement of a new Massey Tunnel.
Better, though, would be to hear from Kevin Falcon, who a few year’s ago, when Minister of Transportation, observed that a new tunnel would not be needed – for two reasons:
(1) It would only push the congestion a few kilometres down the road to the Oak Street Bridge.
(2) “The latest numbers show us that (the tunnel) is not the crisis point,” he said. “In fact, when we go ahead with the Gateway Program, especially the new South Fraser Perimeter Road, we believe we will see increased flows of traffic through the Massey Tunnel because of traffic diversion.”
So explain again: why are we spending billions on the South Fraser Perimeter Road and Highway 1?
Increasingly it’s clear that Motordom has no real constraints; it’s always planning for the next big project, always claiming that expansion is necessary to solve the congestion problems that it creates and then decries – even when there’s evidence that congestion may no longer be the problem it was:
From the 2008 Regional Screenline Survey (measuring traffic volumes in the Lower Mainland):.The total number of vehicles per day in 2008 was 390,972, which reflects a minor decrease of 2.6% from 401,227 vehicles in 2004; the greatest decreases were at the Deas Tunnel (-7.5%) and the Pattullo Bridge (-5.8%) …
More disturbing, though, is the disconnect between the money we’re prepared to spend on more roads and the refusal to fund more transit – particularly South of the Fraser where it is most needed to help shape growth.
The gap is too wide (and now getting wider) between what we need, what we know will work (e.g. the Canada Line) and what our plans call for, compared to the car-dependent transportation system (more and wider roads) that has a very poor record of solving congestion problems.
(I expect there will be the usual assurances that the new tunnel will be good for transit. But as we found with Port Mann, if the buses aren’t part of the budget for the project, don’t take it too seriously.)
Speaking of how we fund transit compared to roads, bridges and tunnels, why in this case wasn’t the Ministry of Transportation expected to fund the project internally, after an audit to identify inefficiencies and funding sources, and after municipalities were called on to fund part of the project through local means? Why in other words do we have a completely different set of criteria for roads compared to transit?
And this is before we really deal with the questions of tolling and regional equity. How can another toll crossing be added to those already existing or underway (Golden Ears and Port Mann), plus what TransLink intends for a new Pattullo Bridge, when they only connect to South of the Fraser? Must there not be some fairness across the Lower Mainland?
But that’s a question the provincial politicos don’t intend to resolve. I doubt the Liberals will take it on, and the NDP has already indicated it will bump the problem over to a reconceived TransLink, likely leaving it to the local mayors to handle. I’m sure that will work out well.
Where, by the way, was the consultation with the region on the tunnel project, where was the reference to the strategic plan, where was the recognition that there will be more pressure on the ALR, more incentives for sprawl?
So in the meantime, more roads – and nothing for transit.
The Premier made the announcement regarding the tunnel in the same week as the ‘Get On Board’ campaign was launched, calling for more investment in transit. Given that it’s supported by a good cross section of our community, including business groups, the Premier, whether she realized it or not, was making a statement of priorities – roads good; transit irrelevant – with a sense of timing that verged on contempt for those on overcrowded buses.
Either a new leadership emerges to constrain Motordom or the next generation will be left without options, except to pay for the misguided priorities of this one.