Another in our series of how Carmageddon fails to cooperate when road space for vehicles is reduced.

For much of the summer and through the Fall, the City has removed two lanes from Georgia Street for the construction of a water line.

Georgia is one of only several hundred-foot rights-of-way in Vancouver – and the only arterial that serves traffic coming onto the downtown peninsula from the west.  Every vehicle approaching from the northwest quadrant of the region – traffic from the ferries, the Sunshine Coast, Squamish, Whistler, and much of the North Shore – has to use this street.  It’s been congested for years.

So it’s reasonable to assume that when you take out two of its six lanes, something very bad will happen: namely, Back-ups from Hell.

It turned out to be more like purgatory: an intermediary state awaiting those trying to reach heaven in the CBD, or having been blessed, returning to a more earthly existence in West and North Vancouver.

From the front of a bus, on November 9, during the early evening rush it looked like this:



Inbound, even with two lanes closed, the traffic kept moving.  Outbound, the usual line-up.



By Thurlow, the east-bound traffic was flowing better than normal; west-bound was typical for the outbound rush – backing up on the red, edging forward on the green.



At Georgia and Granville, looking west, the traffic was no different than normal.



According to my reliable source – the bus driver – traffic has been slightly worse during construction, but manageable.  They’re not notably more delayed.

Yes, anecdotal evidence only.  I’d really like to get some data from the City on this.  But look at it  this way: if traffic was completely bolloxed, there would have been regular news stories.  Certainly the eyes in the skies, the traffic reporters, would have informed us in excruciating detail, every 10 minutes on the 10, how much worse it was.

How many such reports have you heard?


  1. Remember that at the best of times, that same traffic still has to flow into 2 lanes of the Lions Gate Bridge.
    So my guess is that the volume of traffic that opts for that route or mode would already have been prescreened to “fit” a 2 lane scenario. The construction simply moved the merge point.

    1. To be fair, the entire 2-lane stretch of the causeway and bridge has no traffic lights. The capacity of a 2-lane road without traffic lights is in the same ball park as a 4-lane road with traffic lights that have a 50% green cycle. When the free-flowing traffic from the bridge/causeway runs into the traffic lights it’s reasonable to expect some congestion.

      But overall I certainly do agree that traffic flow is a lot more flexible than naysayers give it credit for. In fact, it goes both ways – the huge traffic disaster that was predicted for the great 4-month transit strike of 2001 didn’t materialize either. Society is a lot more fluid and adaptable than people give it credit for. We shouldn’t be so afraid of dealing with temporary closures like this or trying new things.

  2. Nah…most if my WestVan buddies including myself just take our power boats and dock at the CH marina…I mean, driving my Ferrari downtown is so 2013…

  3. Well, there is a disproportionate number of stockbrokers in West Vancouver – so they arrive at work at 5:00 am and are done by 3:00 pm – distributng the traffic over a wider period.

  4. During the Canada Line construction, around 14 east west lanes were closed and yet, there were not major traffic problems. Clearly, there is plenty of road capacity downtown.

  5. The delays that took place on Georgia street were much more prevalent a few blocks to the east for construction of the Telus Building. Nearly half of georgia street was closed for that, and caused delays throughout downtown from cars unable to turn onto georgia.

    But still, georgia street isn’t the best example: Look at Powell Street. Closing such a major street for a large swath of time has not increased congestion on hastings, and not raised travel time (unless you take the 4/7/210). Interestingly, there was very little public outcry from residents or businesses.

    1. Commissioner from Clark to Second Narrows Bridge is still open.
      You can easily get to Clark Drive using the viaducts, then north to Commissioner.
      (I wonder if they did traffic counts to see if the volume over the viaducts increased?)

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