It’s good to see a stimulating discussion on the question of ‘What’s causing traffic congestion on the North Shore.’
Predictably, someone raises the idea of a Third Crossing (in addition to the Lions Gate and Second Narrows Bridges; SeaBus is not counted as a ‘crossing’ – which says a lot.)

M: … the long-term solution must be revisiting a Third Crossing option, which itself can probably only be rapid transit under the inlet. (A looping B-Line around the two bridges might be a stopgap but won’t get most people out of their cars.)

Let’s rule out the prospect of a transit-only Third Crossing.  As Frank Ducote noted: “West Van residents are wealthy and have clout. They will demand more than a bus.”  A bridge or tunnel will almost certainly carry traffic.
So here’s the First Rule when the discussion gets serious:
Any proponent of a Third Crossing must specify the closest major intersections for the entrances and exits of a bridge or tunnel and its associated works.
For instance, if the bridge or tunnel disgorges traffic at Main Street on the Vancouver side, will the affected intersection be Main and Terminal?  Or will there be a flyover or underpass at that intersection – in which case is the next major intersection Main and East 2nd?
And what happens then?
An unobstructed freeway-style lane can deliver up to 2,000 cars per hour.  Having to specify the next place in a corridor where several new lanes of traffic will begin to pile up makes the question of unavoidable congestion, well, unavoidable.  (Notice how MOTI never comes to grips with the impact of a massively expanded Massey crossing and widened Highway 99 on Oak Street.  They want to avoid that question at all costs by pretending it won’t happen – until they’re ready to propose the next major works to solve that problem.)
Third crossingBack to the Third Crossing: eventually the idea evolves to proposing an unobstructed corridor through Vancouver – essentially the freeway proposals of the late 1960s, of which the Third Crossing was a critical component.  Indeed, much of the advocacy for those public works came from political representatives on the North Shore, like Jack Davis – the kind of people who could never understand why people like them and their constituents should be stuck in traffic trying to get to or through Vancouver.
That hasn’t changed.  Which is why any conversation with North Shore advocates requires that they specify where their crossing proposal will land in Vancouver and what will happen then.


  1. The tweet about this post came at about the same time as another tweet from someone else – but on exactly the same issue. Just a different geography.
    “While ITE is supportive in moving forward with the majority of the proposed measures as the first step in this evolutionary process, we do believe FHWA should postpone the adoption of an urban congestion measure until such time as this measure can represent all users of the system. The singular focus of the current proposed measure on vehicle-based travel may have the unintended consequences of focusing investment on the movement of SOVs at a time when the transportation industry has begun to aggressively support shared services and transportation choices. Rather than expending limited FHWA, State and local resources on implementing a measure of questionable value, we respectfully request that FHWA direct those resources toward the collection of multi-modal data and the establishment of multi-modal and person-based measures.”
    ITE = Institute of Transportation Engineers (By the way, you do not have to be an engineer, or an American, to join this institute. I was a member for while.)
    FHWA = (US) Federal Highways Administration

  2. As you’ve mentioned, traffic volumes are lower on Lions Gate now … and as that animation of traffic volume on the ironworkers shows, it isn’t the bridge, its the specific design of the things leading to the bridge that cause the tailbacks there … were it only that those were looked at first before talking about crossing # 3.

    1. Yes, but as we’ve learned repeatedly, it matters not what volumes actually are, but only what motorists feel them to be and how “congestion” bespoils their birthright to an endless smooth ride. Show me a politician who counters her constituents with data and I’ll show you a former politician.
      From my neighbours on the shore, what to do with traffic once it hits downtown streets is the City of Vancouver’s problem, not theirs. The sense of entitlement is overwhelming. That’s what you need to be concerned about. You’ve got to think like someone who’s really, really high on cocaine: that thing you want is justified in every conceivable manner by the simple fact that you want it.

      1. Oh please, and cyclists don’t complain about how “congestion” (or traffic lights, stop signs) bespoils their birthright to an endless smooth ride?
        Human nature is human nature.

        1. No, they don’t. There’s a big difference between complaining, which you’re correct about being human nature; and entitlement, which is expecting the world to respond to those complaints. Motorists are entitled. Cyclists just complain.

        2. And please take a moment now and then to notice all the cyclists who are patiently waiting for the light to change.

  3. If we’re going to ask folks to propose viable, roadway-based third crossing proposals, I’d also ask that any bridge proposals abide not just by Gordon’s traffic flow requirements on each side, but also consider vertical clearance requirements to maintain vessel based freight movement on Burrard Inlet.
    Both the Second Narrows and Lion’s Gate have clearance of what, maybe 35m upon landing, 45-50m mid-span? That landing means the bridge comes ashore in Vancouver at the 10-12-storey mark and will have to grade down over the course of a dozen blocks….unless it lands on a hill (similar to LG and SN). It’ll need to be even higher upon landing, the closer the proposed alignment is to Main Street, in order to clear the Centerm dock cranes.

    1. You can achieve a manageable grade of 6% for rail with a ramp gently spiraling down to earth.
      Sorry, but some of us believe a transit-only third crossing is not only feasible, but inevitable if one looks far enough ahead. Tokyo is one of the few cities in the world that was structured nearly exclusively around rail, and that made it possible for the urban core to eventually accommodate the equivalent of Canada’s entire population in an area only 40% greater than Metro Vancouver’s.
      Not to say we should emulate everything that is Tokyo, but to dismiss rapid transit to the North Shore out of hand, or commuter rail to Squamish, Whistler and beyond, seems like giving up the journey before it has even begun.

    1. The costs associated with that would be so prohibitively high as to make it a non-starter.
      Really, what the corridor could use is either true BRT across the North Shore with frequent bus service up to Squamish OR the renovation of the railroad that already goes up there and turn it into a rail service similar to West Coast Express. Plus, it’d be able to whisk tourists up to Whistler.

      1. “similar to the West Coast Express” would seem to be what you do when you’ve got a mainline that happens to be time competitive with road travel, but is otherwise so busy and constrained that that there just isn’t room to provide effective off-peak service. No point in going out of your way to get modern equipment or run full schedules
        But the ex-BC Rail line to Squamish isn’t a busy rail line. It’s a fairly empty rail line that sees a few freight trains per day and maybe a land cruise in the summer months.
        Passenger rail should aim higher- if we don’t have a good reason to only offer crappy, peak-only schedules using slow push-pull trains, then why do so?

    2. TransLink or MetroVancover would have to buy the CN track for any priority service. That’s not going to happen. The cost of building new tracks would be about the same as the Massey Bridge – $3B or so. But it’s harder to justify that expense for tourists and commuters than it is for the Asian commodities market. Even the BC Liberals wouldn’t be able to b.s. their way to approvals for light rail to Whistler.

      1. They would not have to buy the virtually empty tracks now-one or rarely two trains a day-the Province owns ex-BC Rail the right of way and as part of the lease to CN, could pay for the use of the commuter rail service just as TransLink does now to CPR on a busy rail line for the West Coast Express. The ex-BC Hydro/BC Electric right of way is also owned by the Province should someone figure out that commuter rail service would work for the south side of the Valley as well.

      2. I would note that TransLink pays the CPR to lease the very bust mainline tracks for the West Coast Express, as well as hiring CP crews to run the trains. And it makes a profit.
        There is no reason to doubt that a similar arrangement could be made with CN on a route with not a lot of existing traffic. I suggest bring commuter rail close to the Seabus terminal and competing with the current Pacific Coach Lines service — not to mention building a small station above the BC Ferries terminal at Horseshoe Bay and running affordable commuter rail to Squamish would have only positive results.

    3. Yes, but not by the politicos that make all the decisions. Those folk are fixated on promising the North Shore a third Seabus ..a promise that’s been ongoing for about 15 years now. The closest we came was putting Seabus #3 in the water and then having one of the other old ones taken out for a refit.
      One item you never hear discussed by the decision-makers is the issue of patterns of travel. For some peculiar reason, the DMs work on the principle that everyone traveling from/to the North Shore is going to/from Vancouver. It isn’t. In fact, ever since CNV Mayor Mussatto began building his developer frenzy, so many people and businesses have had to move out to Langley and beyond as to cause DNV Mayor Walton to comment that our am/pm rush hour traffic had reversed directions. What we have to understand in that very few of Metro’s transit DMs have sufficient experience in the topic and have to rely on three things: (1) the dictates of senior governments that provide the funding – or not; (2) politicians who think only in terms of their own political legacies; and, (3) the advice of bureaucrats who are good at reading the writing on the wall and want to keep their jobs.
      Mayor Moonbeam says the Broadway run will be in a tunnel or else; what’s a bureaucrat to do? Tell him that’s too expensive and unnecessary?
      The success or otherwise of our future transit system depends entirely on us. TransLink tells us LRT is too expensive, too slow and lacks capacity? How many of us have taken the trouble to check the facts and understand that is simply NOT TRUE! and then did something about that?
      How many of us listened to Broadway businesses who say a tunnel will ruin their livelihoods? and then did something to help them?
      From where I sit on the North Shore, if Mayor Gregor Robertson is determined to have TransLink build an Evergreen-Line type tunnel, then he and Vancouver taxpayers/developers can pay the full amount of the dollars yet to be put in the pot for the project!!
      If, 15 years ago, the North Shore had decided “screw it, we’ll build our own third Seabus” we could have bought it for around $15 million. (Courtesy of Ernie Crist, long deceased).
      In the upcoming provincial and municipal elections we have two choices: educate ourselves, make our voices heard and force the necessary changes at the top; or be lazy, let the DM’s have free rein…and then pay through the nose when they screw us.
      I, for one, don’t intend to stay quiet.

      1. The cost of the Seabus is only a small part of the addition cost of a third Seabus. Almost the entire North Vancouver bus network runs on a schedule timed to Seabus arrivals at Lonsdale Quay. If you increase sailing by 50% you increase the entire NV bus operating costs by 50%.
        That’s okay by me but it needs to be acknowledged that it’s a lot more than the cost of the boat.

        1. Instead of CUSTOM building 2 X 400 passenger new seabus. @ &25 million each. They could purchased ( off the rack ) as many small ferries needed.. There would have been no need for a schedule. LEAVE when full every few minutes.

  4. Happy to see this topic discussed further. Obviously I disagree that a third crossing must be car-oriented, exactly for the reason presented against it here: that nobody will stand for the impacts and implications of the approaches on either side of the inlet That was pretty clear the last time this was discussed around the LGB upgrades in the late 90s. The ideas presented then (Coal Harbour to Pemberton, or Knight to Mountain Hwy, if I remember right) were rightly viewed as basically impossible to integrate into existing road networks; this is even more true today.
    The idea that whiny, rich folks in WV would shut down any subway proposal because they wouldn’t get to drive in it seems pretty simplistic – on the contrary, my sense is that WV folks see the LGB as “theirs” (it was built for them after all) and would be happy to see fewer NV interlopers on it, slowing down their Teslas.
    I may be wrong but I think discussion around rapid transit on the North Shore has moved beyond this.

  5. No need for a third crossing. (1) Ration existing capacity by giving priority to HOV. More bus lanes to allow translink to operate efficiently .There is not much point in using transit if your bus is caught in the same gridlock .

    1. Yes, the cheater lanes for buses onto LGB have worked well; something similar toward SN would be great but there isn’t the lane space for it now. Similarly an HOV lane down the Cut that might work well to encourage car-pooling (no buses run on the Cut) but an extra lane southbound would need to be added.
      Just to expand on my original comment, I didn’t say a third crossing is needed immediately, rather that one may be in 10-15 years given the planned densification of the NS and S2S growth, and there would be value in a high-level study now to understand what and when that volume+value tipping point is, instead of waiting until it’s obviously overdue to figure that out. I believe the North Shore (especially plus Squamish) has a larger population than the catchment for Evergreen Line, so I doubt it’s decades away for being viable. There are lots of other tweaks that can be done in the meantime.

  6. Clark to Lonsdale is a strong contender for a new crossing.
    Knight/Clark brings up all the trucks heading for the port. This alignment would take traffic heading to the North Shore from the south out of most of Vancouver.
    A tunnel would have to be deep but it would be best. It would therefore have to start a way back from the water line. Maybe starting around 1st. and coming out with an exit at Keith/13th for the hospital and North Van. Best if it were to continue up to the Trans Canada. This would keep a good chunk of traffic off Lonsdale and help stop it becoming a highway.
    Transit should be included, a rail line of some sort.
    A bridge would dump lots of traffic in North Van.
    The work on the Vancouver side would open up the large semi-industrial lands to the west of Clark, which are up for some changes anyway. Covering the tunnel could make that stretch of Clark far more pleasant. Residences could sprout all along that stretch. Between 6th and Hastings is a lot of land. Maybe it could be Terminal Village.

  7. I don’t think we need a third vehicle crossing, but what about the old plan for a crossing of Indian Arm? It was to run through Belcarra, connecting to David Ave in Port Moody. It would use Mount Seymour Parkway in North Van.

    1. It would be interesting to see the projected numbers for users of the proposed Belcara crossing. Not saying it would make sense, but should be looked at.

    2. A crossing from Deep Cove to Belcarra would only exacerbate congestion around the north side of Second Narrows.

  8. All North Shore mayors and councils want improved transit and as far as I know, none espouse a third crossing. That idea is going absolutely nowhere, folks.The various community plans are all based on nodal transit-dependent centres and densified corridors. OTOH, as the Tri-Cities area can attest, TransLink has no intention of providing more frequent service until the density is delivered in such centres and corridors. Ridership demand first, then transit supply rather than the other way around. In fact, TransLink is intent on relocating the two bus terminal facilities on the North Shore to Burnaby, which means that trip origins will not be advice well served in the future as they are now.
    Meanwhile, as all the comments show, traffic worsens.

    1. Then perhaps the mayors should be consulting with their constituents, who apparently have other preferences.
      A third crossing should be built, but only with the understanding that the Lions Gate be shut to vehicular traffic. That bridge and causeway were only built when Vancouverites relented on their initial opposition to despoiling Stanley Park due to the Great Depression.

    2. Translink intends to relocate the North Vancouver bus depot -which is over capacity- to Burnaby, because, the North Van district refuses to Translink an expanded depot (At Pemberton and W 1st). We have knew more Transit supportive council/mayor and obviously this also severely hinders the expansion of transit on the North shore.
      Also, it has been recent calls to implement permanent bus lane on Georgia street in Vancouver, thy have fallen on deaf ears at city council.
      However, Transit to be attractive needs to offer a network effect…and the North shore route overly focusing on the Downtown destination doesn’t answer to the demand of many (*)…The region needs to address that: some gap are simple to fix, like the most obvious:
      and it is unfortunate the recent Downtown transit review didn’t do anything about it
      (but ended to a more expensive transit sytem to run, due to an unecessary number 5 detour… which means less buses elsewhere)
      offering a greater connectivity with the rest of the Network is why, I am suggesting to expand all the NorthShore bus route (using lions gate) to Main station – this to offer a fast and efficient connection with, most of the city routes, and more importantly the bus 3,8,19 (and a terminal bus), as well as a better skytrain connection.
      Similarly, the bus connections between Phibbs exchange and East Van/Burnaby -could be greatly improved and given more visibility: there is a whole array of bus routes, but none is frequent enough to convey the idea of frequent and reliable bus service on the Second Narrow. The bus 130 (Phibbs exchange – Brentwood – Metrotown) should be certainly given the B line treatment…
      Many options before resorting to skytrain…and other stuff pretty much going nowhere…
      regarding the third crossing:
      I think the Province idea is to wake up some day, with the news that the 2nd narrow is not up to seismic standards…so it needs to be replaced…by a 10+ lanes bridge obviously…then a Number 8rd bridge in Richmond connecting to Hwy 91… so Boundary can becomes a full scale highway….that is the untold province plan…which come in place piece per piece…

      (*) That is also a problem with the George Massey tunnel, transit doesn’t help for the trip Delta-Richmond, Delta-East Van/Burnaby …and it is pretty much the stand of the Province (and unfortunatly the region, especially the mayors transit plan, didn’t have anything to offer to improve this).

  9. Froogle Scott mentions that to escape his nightmare renovation he had to pay two senior carpenters $65.00 each for travel time, ergo $130.00/day on the clock before any work was done.
    Contrast this to when I commuted to the North Shore for work. This cost was externalized for the business. One worker there commuted from Langley; another took a bus/Skytrain/Seabus/bus to get to this destination; another drove from Squamish.
    None of these positions required skills that were unavailable within walking distance.
    If employers had to internalize the costs of employee commuting, their pencils would get sharp in a heartbeat and they would work out the logistics before you can say gridlock. This is the piece of the puzzle that’s missing. Live where you work. Work where you live.
    We’re not talking about traffic jams – we’re talking about commuter jams.

    1. It’s not just commuters–weekends are often as bad going north or south–but certainly the afternoon commute is a key issue these days.
      I’m an employer on the North Shore, with employees coming from as far as PoCo and several from Squamish. Although we always encourage anyone we hire to consider living nearby, most people stay where they are for various reasons–sometime lifestyle (esp. Squamish) or affordability (tri-cities) but more often because that person’s partner works in another part of Metro Van or to stay near extended family/schools/favourite neighbourhood, etc. These are all valid reasons that are out of our control–I’m sure if we refused to hire someone because they lived in Burnaby, we would be in court in a flash. I live within walking distance of work precisely to avoid the commute–but many people have a much higher tolerance for time in transit.
      Where people work vs live is an important consideration here–in this market it’s easy for councils to add housing and population, but it’s not so easy for them to add good jobs for these people. If councils don’t work on job-growth strategies for new residents who move into these council-approved developments and just expect them all to work across the water, then the cross-inlet traffic (and, by impact, cross-shore traffic) will continue to worsen rapidly.

      1. On what grounds could someone be sued for refusing to hire outside of a stated geographic area?
        The spouse argument has merit.
        The lifestyle argument is flawed. Why should we supply individual motorists with roads because they like to live far from work. It’s like enabling a drunk.
        The affordability argument is spurious.
        Stop paying for motordom and use your former commute time profitably and you can afford to live just about anywhere. How much does it cost to own/lease a vehicle + insurance, gas, maintenance, repairs, and the big killer – depreciation – well north of $1,000/mo.
        The cost of our little fleet of bicycles this entire year was $4.00 + tax for a new set of brake pads.
        Encouragement is lip service. Incentives work.

    1. (4) Use capacity better (5) Make sure that there are alternatives that allow the same capacity to have greater capacity (transit) … there, I fixed it for you.

  10. A third crossing for cars would not only result in more congestion in Vancouver but also on the North Shore.
    In the mean time the province quite sensibly invests in good cycling infrastructure between Vancouver and the North Shore, and makes Hwy 1 north of Second Narrows safer and more efficient.
    A recent letter to the editor of the North Shore News suggested replacing the SeaBus with a Skytrain tunnel.

  11. Third Crossing tube under harbour, Fell Ave to Clark, freeway under Knight and new wider bridge to Richmond. rail transit with it. Krispy’s new mega bridge tie in to this. This should have been built 60 years ago and was started with the 1955 Granville freeway bridge

    1. There will never be a freeway in Vancouver. It is unlikely there will ever be a third crossing that accommodates cars.

      1. Not a “free”way but perhaps a fast flowing tolled throughfare ? Why not a tunnel under W Georgia ? How else to get cars from N-Shore to Vancouver, Richmond and south ?
        But any option will be expensive.

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