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.


  1. My first reaction (and second and third), is why all these highway projects and no extra funding for transit which is more badly needed.

  2. every morning I see the trucks carrying good heading south waiting in than endless line through the tunnel. Every morning I hear tick, tick, tick as the transit costs of goods goes through the roof and carbon emissions spew into the air.

    It is, what it is. In my opinion – 10 years to change the current situation is far too long.

    1. Why do they have to time their deliveries during rush hour? Totally inefficient project management for a transport company. In Manhattan trucks carrying goods transport and deliver at night while people are sleeping. So we should build an 8 lane tunnel because of this? Seriously…..

    2. Is that happening while you, and 90% of your fellow commuters are single car commuting? I carpool by all the time and it is really quite easy – try it out sometime. There are far better ways to create efficiencies in goods movement commuter transportation than a tunnel replacement.

  3. Every evening or week-end, I don’t see any truck, I don’t see congestion either, why Port of Vancouver is open only during congested hours?

    This week-end I saw lot of ship waiting at English bay, because the port was not open to business…and every week-end I hear tick tick as the labor practice of Port of Vancouver are inflating shipping cost

    Could it be that we spend $billion of tax payer money, just to please the Port of Vancouver’s antiquated labor practice?

    But Julia is right, truck idling in the tunnel is a waste of money…now does it needs to be a $gazillion of money of new bridge construction to alleviate this?

    That is still costing money, and someone has to pay for it, how Julia and others alreday know that this money is a worthy investment ?

    I am curious of the answer

    (trucking industry told us the GEB was worthy, because it saves the PMB congestion, but truckers still sticking on a touted congested PMB seems to disagree)

    Could it be that just put a congestion toll on the actual tunnel to keep traffic moving could be a much more efficient alternative?

    At least according to some studies ( )-which seems corroborated by recent experiments, be on GEB or on Seattle SR520, to name only local examples-it is a resounding YES

    So to avoid congestion into the tunnel the folk of the region could be faced two alternative:

    pay a “facility” toll on the tunnel at all time, evening and week-end included to painfully pay back the road builders (we all know in fact, it is not working like it, tax payer end up to be on the hook, it is true of the Coquihalla hwy, it is true of the GEB which toll doesn’t cover the debt servicing, and it will be also true of the PMB )

    pay a “congestion” toll on the tunnel, in effect around 5hr per day (when congestion occurs without it), basically leaving the tunnel free evening and week-end, and having the toll proceeding financing Transit, to allow better transportation choice (that keeping the toll low)

    Which one you prefer?

  4. btw, one alternative can take effect tomorrow, the other… you have to wait 10 years,
    So If you really think congestion in the tunnel is a serious problem…

  5. One difference between the road and transit projects is tolling. Tolling acts like a multiplier for the money that the government directly invests in the project allowing the government to build a two billion dollar project with half of that funded by tolls. Unfortunately the economics of public transit aren’t the same. To build a two billion dollar project, the government must put up two billion dollars plus a possible operational subsidy.

    1. Hence an economic paradox. While the transit toll (fare) project must be subsidized by the taxpaper (on paper) the road toll project is massively subsidized by the users who must buy and maintain their vehicles and is covertly subsidized by the taxpayer through health care, road maintenance and policing costs and many other hidden subsidies not accounted for like a simple transit project can be.

      There is no question a good transit project is much better for society than another road project, but our current accounting practices do not reflect it…

  6. Why in other words do we have a completely different set of criteria for roads compared to transit?” The answer to that, Gord, goes a long way back to Phil Gagliardi and his iron clad vote getting machine the, still very effective, Road Builders Association.

    And, “The gap is too wide (and now getting wider) between what we need, what we know will work (e.g. the Canada Line) . . .

    . . . what we know will work . . . Arummph, who told you that?

    Where are the billions more to come from to pay for more of that shiny little plaything. Just because the numbers crunch doesn’t mean the system is effective, it just means there is nowhere else to go.

    Voo-doo shiny trinket planning is just as impotent now as it ever was with the road builders and once it has its teeth in our money it will be just as hard to shed.

    The best transportation planning, in its purest form, is to plan for no transportation but that’s along way off in a more enlightened (i.e. when we realize we have no money) future.

    I would suggest, Gord, if you are still hooked on fancy gadgetry you are wasting your sponsors money attending that conference in Australia!

  7. The Massey tunnel is one of the most dreadful bottlenecks in the region. Being the only north-south route between the regional core of Vancouver metro and both the border and ferry terminal destinations, not to mention Roberts Bank, the personal time costs as well as economic costs must be phenomenal.

    Adding an estimated 1400 trucks per day (!!) to this horrible pinch point will only further exacerbate regional congestion and economic impacts caused by delay. The current “solution” of 3 lanes in peak hour direction and only 1 in the “off peak” direction is incredibly stressful for those unlucky enough to be caught in the latter direction, be that in a car, bus or truck.

    And the need to solve the bike access issue is paramount as well, as noted above. Bike travel, both as commuting and to, say, Vancouver and the Gulf Islands is a growing economic (i.e., tourism), recreational and environmental benefit, just waiting to be tapped. Ferry travel is dropping, yet as we heard today, rates are going up and service down. But that’s another story, but one very much related to the Massey tunnel and its future.

  8. The problem is that people feel compelled to single car commute. A nominal investment in more efficient carpool lanes and a more efficient and user friendly carpool system with park and ride expansion could provide an effective solution. We should not be investing any more money for people who are unwilling to make that extra step – let them wait in line if that is what they choose.

  9. I thought the South Fraser Perimeter Road and it’s connections to the Alex Fraser and Queensborough Bridges were meant to solve this very problem re: goods movement. Why did we bother with the SFPR then?

    Also, while I’m lucky enough to have a mild commute now (because I moved), I was driving extensively in the past year and noticed that truck traffic at the AM/PM peaks is very visible and busy. Why are we still clustering all our goods movements at the AM/PM peaks? There are shoulder hours, weekends, nights, and on and on. We need to get a bit creative and stop building infrastructure for that 4 hours a day where everyone tries to do everything at once.

    I guess my other fundamental problem with the notion is that people keep moving into Delta, Ladner, South Surrey, et al and then complain about the bridge or tunnel traffic, as if they didn’t know or its some kind of surprise. Yeah, if you live in White Rock and need to drive into Vancouver every day you’re going to have a bad time. The Massey Tunnel has been busy my whole life; this is not a sudden revelation, and expecting us all to fork up billions to subsidize your poor personal choices is getting old. And I question the affordability argument because it ignores personal choice, it pretends that reasonable housing options (townhomes, etc) don’t exist north of the Fraser and that the only option is a 3500 sq ft house south of the Fraser. That’s fine, I can accept one’s choice to live that way but don’t expect me to pay for your decision while I accept smaller living spaces in exchange for less time on the road.

  10. I am going to contact the Premier about the next bottle neck we need to sort out………..The Lions Gate Bridge. The current 3 lane bridge is old and inadequate, we should look at a 10 lane bridge that moves goods from Neptune terminals into downtown and transport commodities from Vancouver to Park Royal. The 10 lanes will artfully disperse in and around the West End through a series of tunnels and flyovers. The bridge will be tolled to pay for the new cost with a dedicated lane for cycling and transit. It’s a win-win for the region!

    1. Yes, that solution sounds familiar. I think it was seriously discussed about 20 years ago, but was somehow decided against…

  11. Transportation, be it people, goods, private or public is, and has been a disaster, for a decade or more!

    Governance, at every level, national, provincial, civic has failed demonstrably!

    Why do we expect the people and authorities, including our august host, the very people who have the authority to change direction, to solve the problems of their own making, while sitting numbly by blaming anyone but themselves?

    They have been ’round long enough to watch the stress, chaos, and dysfunction accumulate yet all they do is jabber online and expect the provincial voter to shell out more and more.

    Scott The 10 lanes will artfully disperse in and around the West End through a series of tunnels and flyovers. The bridge will be tolled to pay for the new cost with a dedicated lane for cycling and transit. It’s a win-win for the region!

    Interesting: I was part of a consulting team that tried that I the late ’60’s: it didn’t work then! It wont work now!

    Jabber, jabber pants on fire is a recipe for disaster.

  12. Andrew – don’t worry, you’re going to have to “fork over” whether you like the idea or not.
    There are – and have always been – town centres and communities south of the Fraser and they will continue to grow, urbanist idealists’ opinions notwithstanding. We can only hope that they are transit-ready and wonderfull places in their own right. Unfortunately, transit service is lagging rather than leading the process of urbanization, which seems to be the province’s policy, in effect. Translink doesn’t have the means to do otherwise.

  13. I think it’s an election ploy, aimed at building up fading ‘Liberal’ (read Social Credit) support. It will be easy to plead poor after an election (that is, if the Liberals get in again, which I also think is unlikely). In other words, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it actually happening. As for the mindset that such a promise represents, well, there’s a longer-term problem.

  14. Frank – I’m happy to help support transportation investment south of the Fraser provided that it is made with present and future needs in mind (e.g. public transit), not outdated 1950s thinking that would have us throw good money after bad (e.g. endless highway investment). It just marches on and on and on. I’d be cheering for ALRT, LRT, and BRT expansion south of Fraser (well, so long as north of the Fraser also receives expansion, of course).

    Golden Ears Bridge – $800M
    Port Mann Bridge and Hwy 1 Widening – $4000M
    Pitt River Bridge – $200M
    South Fraser Perimeter Road – $800M+ (2005 est – probably out of date)
    Patullo Bridge Replacement – $1500M+ (est)
    Massey Tunnel Replacement – $1500M+ (guess)

    SUBTOTALS = $5000M (fairly reliable) plus $3800M (pre-construction estimates)
    TOTAL = $8800M (at best!) (excludes debt servicing cost over life of amortization – easily doubles the true cost, nevermind uncertainty in estimates)

    Vancouver CMA population from 2011 Census is 2.313M.

    $8800M / 2.313M = $3800 for every resident of Greater Vancouver (a large per capita figure by any standard)

    I can’t help but believe that we should be able to find a more strategic use of the better part of $10 billion rather than unbridled expansion of our highways…

  15. Andrew – no debate there. I am certainly a long-term and committed advocate for building transit and alternative transportation and TOD development in this region, and the lack of doing same with the tax dollars you note is almost a scandal. On the subject of the Massey tunnel, I think the main issue is increased trade – i.e., truck traffic – both for across the border and to/from Roberts Bank, as well as providing for adequate bike facilities.

    Neither of these can be addressed by transit facilities alone. On this note, if there was a possibilitity of continuing the existing HOV lane across the south arm of the Fraser in both directions 24/7, many of the transit issues could be alleviated, it would seem to me (assuming service is provided!). This alone would be a big ticket item, however.

    1. I know its not ideal but the bike lane and the tunnel can be improved simply by providing more of the bike shuttle service. Having only hourly service is ridiculous. Buses could be used but then cyclists have to pay 2 zones.

    2. Re-reading my post I realize it might seem that I was aligning your thinking with highway worship, which definitely isn’t the case. Sorry about that!

      Re: truck movement, N-S across the Fraser and to the border can use Hwy 91 and Alex Fraser Bridge, Roberts Bank can use the new SFPR to access Hwy 91 or use Hwy 99 if continuing south. *shrug* It seems relatively solved to me? Had a quick look at Google Maps and it confirmed my suspicion that the distance from Vancouver to the border is pretty much equal whether or not you take the 91 or 99. Only trip that would be longer via Hwy 91 is between Roberts Bank and Vancouver or Richmond (and maybe not even Richmond depending on what part).

  16. May I repeat – an estimated 1400 MORE trucks per day using the tunnel. At the present time, certainly at evening rush period, the #2 lane is almost 100% trucks using 99 in Richmond. Drivers in cars would have to be insane to get in that lane at that time. Can there be any wonder why there are HOV traps in this stretch to catch the unwary or desparate?

  17. Delta Port is almost exclusively serviced by rail: containers arrive and depart by rail. Coal arrives by rail.

    Truck traffic thru the Massey tunnel is destined south to return with produce for Lower Mainland markets.

    By far the greater use of the tunnel is by Canadian bargain shoppers taking advantage of the currency difference.

    Recognition of the province’s agricultural potential would be a far better solution that throwing more money at as of now retrograde road projects. The once fertile ALR has been abused: the Spetifore lands are under constant encroachment.

    That way grocery shoppers would have no incentive to waste half their life is a traffic jam!

    There are other solutions to cross Fraser congestion, Massey tunnel, SFPR etc, without bloating expenditures we do not have by up-grading the Aldergrove crossing and distributing the traffic over a wider range eastward.

    The essential transportation problem in Metro and the Lower Mainland is political failure and planning neglect.

  18. @Frank

    You seem a pretty ardent ardent supporter of a new tunnel what could be fine… but frankly, so far your arguments range from the ludicrous (“lack of bike lane”) to the fear mongering (“an armada of truck is coming to bring Armageddon under the Fraser”).

    You seems to conveniently dismiss the effect of transit on the traffic:
    Yes the goods will not take transit, but the people taking transit provide more road space for goods.

    BTW, where have you heard this 1400 additional trucks prediction? which analysis or study support this number? could it be from the same gospel which was predicting an armada of truck on the Golden Ear Bridge?

    Anyway: Let assume this number is correct, a bit of context could help:

    -it is 2% of the current traffic in the tunnel, and as introduced in this post, it is a traffic level the tunnel has already experimented in the past.
    -that is the hourly capacity of one traffic lane, or 1% of the total capacity of the current tunnel.

    yes… because the tunnel has lot of spare capacity – well it could be congested more than 4hr per day, but it is free flow more than 12 hours a day

    Nevertheless in face of it You mention
    “At evening rush period, 2 lane is almost 100% trucks using 99 in Richmond”

    Why the truck travel during rush hour?

    In case of, a beginning of answer lie here:

    In other term, not questioning the Port practice, is also accepting to build an infrastructure 3 times bigger than optimally necessary to accommodate its needs. Is it the right thing to do? You seems to think so. Why?

    In my first comment I have say, that there is basically two choice to avoid a congested tunnel

    (1) pay a congestion toll on the existing tunnel, that is only when necessary to prevent congestion, the toll revenue financing Transit (providing choice to user) – (That can be in place tomorrow)

    (2) Pay an infrastructure toll, that is 24/24 7/7, the toll revenue going to the road builder – (That means you also accept congestion for the next 10 years or so)

    You have elected for the second choice,, That is fine but may you let us know why you do so?

    Just curious…

  19. My experience practicing architecture, for over forty years, in the Metro Vancouver area, be it realtors, pubic works Canada, unions or developers, is that of unabated sleaze, desperate sleaze, jerry built everywhere, and greed!

    Petty politicians and their functionaries do not face fact, but find solace in nonsensical myths: mountains, sea, views, world class paradise. Every one knows the lie but no one dare speak its truth!

    Anything to avoid the truth: ugly, or worse, banal architecture (see the recent Nordtrom proposal or the now aging blank concrete pile close by), flaccid bureaucracies, traffic chaos, speculator driven chaotic housing, anxiety, planning by realtor, unmanageable debt, the mayor faking concern for affordable housing and on and on and on . . .

    The recent across-the-board announcement of extensive traffic up grade, the Massey Tunnel, is empty electioneering. Don’t expect much after May!

    We will reap the whirlwind and it will get much worse.

  20. Voony – Ardent is right, since I can certainly recognize a problem when I see one, and repreatedly experience it. I only use the tunnel one round trip each week, and can’t answer your question about why trucks use rush period (darn them!), other than the obivious reason that we all use roads at those times. I read today that Richmond Council is considering a bylaw that would restrict truck traffic to 7pm to 7am hours. Trucks serving Richmond businesses (grocery stores, etc.) would presumably be included in that restriction. Great fun for neighbours trying to sleep, eh? Let’s see how that flies with the province, feds and trucking associations.

    For the record, I am not a fan of a new tunnel. I’d personally prefer a span of some sort, for many reasons, notably the ability of bikers and perhaps even pedestrians to cross without gagging. The tunnel is not too much fun for occupants of buses and cars either. It may or may not be cheaper as well. The visual experience of a span would be another benefit.

  21. I was under the impression the original choice for a tunnel was due to height issues with ships that use the waterway. Is that incorrect?

  22. Frank, recognizing a problem is good, identifying its cause is better…
    otherwise, the suggested solution will end up more often than not to fix the symptom rather the cause of the problem…which will continue to growth ever bigger…

    The move of the Richmond council could be clumsy, but it has the merit to shed light on some root of a problem (concentrated truck traffic for a reason explained in the link I have provided)….

    I notice you don’t answer to my last question (congestion toll versus infrastructure toll), you seems to ostensibly ignore other solution than “pave the Delta”

    BTW, I discuss of some of those other solutions here:

    1. Voony – To be brief: don’t know if repair or replacement is required for this nearly 60 year old structure but, if the latter, I’d prefer a span. Tolls can help pay for what’s needed.

      Chris – you’re probably right.

  23. Voony Your illustration Leverage of the Steveston#99 interchange . . . describes the issue beyond your eloquence.

    The problem isn’t the tunnel. The problem is the manner in which regional development has occurred over the years.

    Judging from your graphs and stats anyone would thinq the Massey tunnel is unique. It is not!

    For instance, the Mersey tunnel, between Liverpool and Birkenhead UK, was built in 1936 is still going strong. It, no doubt, has its problems but not to the extent a replacement is mooted . . .

    The problem is endemic, as I have described in a previous post. If this is not addressed, long term, then all your graphs and stats and pretty colours are to no avail . . .

  24. Chris

    I was under the impression the original choice for a tunnel was due to height issues with ships that use the waterway.

    The Mersey tunnel, as no doubt do many, has ships plying over it too.

    This conversation is preposterous!

  25. Lots of interesting comments, but, I agree with Beth Culp Johnson, and one other poster who Icannot locate now: this Massey Tunnel replacement plan is a crass political ploy by Cristy Clark. It is astounding how crass she is. A born blowhard.

    Cristy really does believe that these ill-thought out “and now for my next big surprise” announcements are going to make sense to people once they have a chance to think them over, and hear the comments of others, it is astounding. And yet, she does it over and over.

    So don’t worry about it, and don’t spend too much energy arguing against it. Not that I think the NDP are any more competent, but I do not think the Massey Tunnel announcement will last a day beyond May, 2013…

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