I usually try to wait a day or so before putting up a post on a hot issue.  But this time I can’t stop myself. 
The following just came in by email:

James Weldon, North Shore News (March 26, 2007)
NORTH SHORE – Lineups to the Lions Gate Bridge will quadruple by 2021, causing tie-ups on Highway 1 and major North Shore arterial roads, according to a new report by the province.
Evening rush-hour commuters can expect traffic jams four times the current length, regularly reaching half a kilometre along Marine Drive west of Taylor Way and up Capilano Road, say the authors.

 A little background here.  Ever since I moved to Vancouver in 1978, I’ve been aware that the North Shore has always wanted a Third Crossing.  The failure of that project in 1972 was a turning point in this region’s history – and is one of the reasons we are still a livable and economically prosperous city.  But that hasn’t stopped those stuck in traffic on the roads leading to Lions Gate Bridge from dreaming.
On this side of Burrard Inlet, however, we’ve done everything we can to prevent another crossing.  Coal Harbour was designed in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of a waterfront road, we refused to entertain any more lanes through Stanley Park, we rejected the possibility of an Alberni-Georgia couplet, and we traffic calmed the West End.  Councils across the ideological spectrum agree: no more capacity for single-occupant vehicles.
On the other side of Burrard Inlet, most people have come to terms with the situation.  In fact, given the modest growth of West Vancouver and western North Vancouver, the line-ups to the bridge really haven’t changed that much over the years.  The worst traffic is on weekends; most of the time it flows pretty well, and people have organized there lives to accommodate a three-lane reality.  (That’s one of the reasons their quality of life is so high – though they rarely acknowledge it.)
But when the Province announced a widening of the Sea-to-Sky Highway (and the real-estate development that would inevitably follow up the corridor), I wondered: what will happen to the traffic on Taylor Way and Capilano Road when all those new residents (who bought homes, as advertised, because Squamish is closer to downtown Vancouver than Langley) hit the road and start commuting?

 Commuting urbanites
Now we know:

 Its authors looked carefully at 20 possible improvements for the intersections and thoroughfares near the north end of the span. If all of them were implemented the cost could add up to $125 million.
The authors conclude that none of them will reduce commute times.

All of these improvements, which range in price from around $3 million to about $50 million, would do nothing to speed commutes, but would at least help get lineups out of the way of local traffic.
Temporarily, that is.
“Eventually, those storage areas will be filled over the next 20 years or so,” said the authors. “The lineups to the bridge will once again extend along Marine Drive, Taylor Way and Capilano Road.”
In the end, the only solution is to get commuters out of their cars, said the authors.

What the hell?  How could the Province be spending hundreds of millions to widen Sea to Sky without taking into account the intersection of Taylor Way and Marine Drive?  How could they do that without anyone asking what will happen?
It turns out someone did.  Liberal MLA Ralph Sulton called for the report, mainly because he wanted a solution to the problem facing his constituents now – not so much to deal with the growth that will come. 

….The report is something of a wake-up call, said West Vancouver-Capilano MLA Ralph Sultan, who was a driving force behind the project. “I, in my naivete, thought there was some kind of silver bullet,” he said. “To spend a million dollars and not to be given a silver bullet is bit of a disappointment.”

I’m stunned.  What was he thinking could possibly solve the problem?  Another road down the Capilano River?  Or anywhere through the forested subdivisons of the region’s wealthiest residents?   Double decking?  Was there anywhere he could point to as a model for what to do, short of helicopters?

It’s an unpleasant reality Ralph Sultan didn’t really want to hear, but one he is now willing to accept.
Short of building another crossing over or under the inlet, he said, there really is no way around it: “We need better mass transit to the North Shore.”

“Short of building another crossing ….”  Ah, there it is again: that shimmering vision of another bridge or tunnel.  Another billion or two or ten to get the traffic moving. 
The question I always ask whenever someone from the North Shore calls for a Third Crossing is simply this: tell me where the bridge or tunnel will feed the traffic.  And I want the specific intersection.  Tell me the name of the roads.  And then, what do you think will happen at the next stop light?  Or do you imagine a tunnel, perhaps, under the downtown peninsula, a la Sydney.  To pop up at Granville and Broadway? 
Then, what are you going to do with another 2,000 vehicles per lane per hour?  And why do you think it will be any different from what you already face at Taylor Way and Marine?
And since you now have no idea what you’re going to do there, why would you want to do it somewhere else?
Remember: the people responsible for this dilemma are the same people bringing you the Gateway Project.  Maybe it’s time the MLAs out in the valley asked for what Ralph Sulton got way too late.


  1. The North Shore Transit Plan is due to be updated beginning in late 2007. TransLink is already planning a third SeaBus for 2009, and later, pilot marine services from Bowen Island and Ambleside to Downtown.

  2. It almost seems like we’re facing the same problem over here on the island; the magic fix for the congestion on the malahat is a bridge built across from Mill Bay to Saanich, and a widening of highway 1 up the island. Trouble is, what’s going to happen where the bridge feeds into Saanich? The Pat Bay highway certainly couldn’t handle that volume, and the consequences of widening barely come into the equation. We need your insight here on the island Mr. Price; a clear, consistent voice calling for what we all know to be the future: No more capacity for the single occupant vehicle!

  3. If West Vancouver would allow densification, then maybe there wouldn’t be so much of a push up Howe Sound.
    North Vancouver seems to be moving that way a bit (City of North Vancouver, anyways), but the District of North Vancouver’s recent refusal to allow high density housing on the auto site next to Capilano Mall probably means another open shopping plaza.
    If congestion happens, so what?
    What is the complaint, that you are inconvenienced and can’t drive in quickly because other out-of-towners are getting in the way? As between you and them, for whom is transit a more viable alternative?

  4. Note that the above is in the context of the Lion’s Gate Bridge being soely a commuter / passenger vehicle route, as trucks are banned from it.

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