From Barry Rueger, a member of the District of North Vancouver’s Transportation Consultation Committee for three years.  

Bicycles are not a North Shore Panacea, Transit Might Be.

For three years I’ve been part of the District of North Vancouver’s Transportation Consultation Committee. Few things have enjoyed more discussion than cycling infrastructure.
The cycling community, including HUB, have done a tremendous job of lobbying local governments for better bike paths and lanes, and for the inclusion of bike specific amenities in major developments.
Good though that is, it isn’t about to solve the problems of the daily traffic jams on the Upper Levels highway.
The North Shore has a significant problem caused by the volume of automobiles trying to get to and from the North Shore via the two bridges.
When these discussions happen, bicycles are almost immediately proposed as the solution to traffic jams.
The problem is that our most avid cyclists don’t seem to understand the motivation of all of the thousands of people driving to and from their destinations.
The people who are driving to and from work each day don’t generally enjoy it, and they don’t like what it costs them. No one chooses to sit for an hour in stop and go traffic, or to pay more and more for gas and insurance for the privilege.
Just raising gas prices, eliminating parking, or laying on guilt trips won’t change this. You can probably make commuting by car twice as expensive and see little decrease in traffic volume – unless you can offer drivers a real and practical alternative.
Or more to the point, offer drivers an alternative that they see as reasonable and attractive.
I have neighbours who cycle from Lynn Valley to downtown Vancouver and UBC respectively, but they are part of a very, very small minority. The number of North Shore residents who will be prepared to cycle or walk to jobs in Vancouver or Surrey is marginal at best. For the vast majority of commuters the only possible options are private automobiles or public transit.
Despite the apocryphal stories about cyclists whizzing by slow moving cars on Lions Gate Bridge, the majority of drivers believe that, all things being equal, driving will get them to their destination faster than cycling.
For the vast majority of drivers that’s entirely true.
Travelling long distances by bike, over hilly terrain, at the same speed as driving, requires a high level of fitness, and probably a bike costing at least thousand dollars. Plus an employer who either doesn’t mind wet, smelly employees, or has shower and change facilitates at the office. The cyclists who have all of these things available really do represent a pretty elite group.
As an elite, they leave out the people who are physically unable to ride a bike. The people who are moving three or four children to various activities each day, as well as shopping and medical appointments. People moving appliances and parcels. People who carry the tools of their trade to work each day, or who work in different places and at different times. People who can’t afford the bike, and clothing, and helmet, and the extra time to travel by bike.
And, of course, people who simply don’t want to ride bicycles.
For the North Shore, a solution that relies solely or mostly on cycling is not reasonable.
Lecturing commuters about the “real costs” of driving (either in terms of infrastructure or in terms of the environment) won’t move more than a marginal number of people out of their cars.
The factors that keep people driving are entirely different.
The person who is commuting by car will ask a few specific questions about any transportation option you offer them.
They’ll ask how long it takes to get to and from their job. If they can’t get to work on time, or if they are forced leave home a half hour early just to be sure, they’ll stay in their car. If they arrive home an hour later, and miss their kid’s soccer game, they’ll stay in their car. If their commute includes a transfer in the middle – or two – and those connections are unreliable, they’ll stay in their car.
They’ll ask how close the transit start point is from their home, and how far the end point is from their work. If it’s five blocks at each end, they’ll stay in their car. If the trip involves standing or riding in the rain, they’ll stay in their car.
They might not ask about it, but they care about comfort. If the bus is old, noisy, and crowded, they’ll stay in their car. If the driver is rude, or the passengers smelly, or if they usually wind up standing for much of the trip, they’ll stay in their car.
They’ll ask what it costs to take transit. In real world terms that means: is the transit fare more than what I pay for gas?
Because usually it is.
The other costs of driving – purchase, financing, insurance, maintenance – don’t enter into the discussion. They’re sunk costs that remain the same whether the car is parked, or being used to commute.
The only variable cost is gasoline, and that’s what transit fares need to beat.
Downtown dwellers can get by with Car2Go and similar services. People living at the ends of suburban communities usually can’t – The District of North Vancouver is designed on the assumption that you’ll drive to shop, to work, to play, and a car in the driveway becomes a necessity.
Even the newer, high density “town centres” being built now in  Lynn Valley, and at the bottoms of Capilano Road and Mountain Highway, assume that they’ll be a shopping hub for the surrounding residential areas, and include ample parking for all of the families who will drive to them from their homes.
Despite including bike racks and designated bike routes, the prevailing assumption is still that transportation is primarily provided by cars.
Consequently, on the North Shore, you can’t assume that the choice is cars vs transit or bikes.  It’s actually, “I’ve already got a car in my driveway, so why should I take the bus?”
People are commuting by car to and from the North Shore because they do not see an alternative that is as good. Not even close.
Whether you’re promoting transit or bicycles, you’re working against convenience, comfort, reliability, and a sense of control.
That’s a combination that is worth a lot to people.
As it stands now bicycles aren’t going to replace cars on the North Shore, and North Shore transit isn’t close to offering most commuters what they think is a palatable alternative.
It’s really a chicken and egg, cart and horse problem. Before you can start trying to get people out of their cars, you need to put in place the alternatives that they will be happy to use.
Or, more positively, if you build a super good transit system, people will move to it on their own because it’s better.
 
PT: Two points:  There was a transit referendum in which the majority of citizens on the North Shore voted not to fund transit expansion (regardless of whatever reason they used to justify a negative.)   Secondly, the Province is clearly prepared to massively fund road and bridge construction from general funds – as they’re doing with interchange construction at Second Narrows.
Why wouldn’t people on the North Shore call for a Third Crossing (paid for by all the people of the province) to solve immediate congestion, while continuing to reject local growth and higher densities in their communities because there’s no guarantee of transit, which they voted against?
Therefore, for them, the car is the only alternative.  The problem is keeping other cars out.
Unfortunately, there are two further consequences: the increased road expansion to the east and south (Highway 1 and Port Mann) also allows those who can’t afford to live on the North Shore the ability to  live further away but still drive to those municipalities.  And the expanded capacity to the north (the Sea to Sky highway, and the proposed Sunshine Coast Connector) will allow vastly expanded ex-urban development and for commuter traffic to drive through the North Shore on the way to jobs to the south and east.  
 

Comments

  1. This is an extremely accurate description of how people on the North Shore think of transportation to and from the city, at least from my 15 years of experience on that side of Burrard Inlet. I was a bus commuter, then a car commuter, then a work at home person so I did everything — everything except biking because doing that in commuter traffic scared the crap out of me. The only guy I knew who did it eventually got hit by a car. I think the only thing that will get a substantial number of people out of their cars is a train of some sort. If I ruled the world (and believe me, a lot of people have said it’s a good thing I don’t), I’d have a spine that ran from Dundarave to Sea Bus to Second Narrows and over to the Millenium Line, with a branch across Lions Gate to City Centre. That’s the kind of convenience that people would get out of their cars for.

  2. Key point missed in all this:
    What could fix congestion overnight with no new infrastructure of any kind is reducing the number of cars operating at 20% capacity. The target should be to reduce Single Occupancy Vehicles, not all vehicles. Take advantage of the comfort, non-smelliness and flexibility of cars already on the road.
    Getting more people into the passenger seats of cars, out of drivers’ seats, could greatly reduce this problem.
    Obviously this isn’t an option for everyone (eg tradespeople), but new technology makes it much easier, convenient and realistic now than it has ever been.
    Who’s working on this?!

    1. Uber got rejected. That would have solved a lot of these issues as some folks happily make a few extra bucks taking folks and others would leave their car home, or commute by bus one way but take Uber home.
      Road or bridge tolls also would take some demand off, especially at rush hour as many folks can get up earlier, leave later or work only a few days a week. Thus, those that pay actually get a faster commute. A true win/win.
      Plus car share.
      Those three options combined would reduce demand 20% or so, especially at rush hour.

  3. So it’s ‘provide me with door-to-door transit service first, then I’ll use it – and maybe even pay for it – if I deem it more convenient’. I’m sorry, but that’s not how adults get to make decisions. In the real world you have to find the money first; or at least peg proposed money to specific transit projects. Oh, wait, we tried that already. A majority of my North Shore neighbours voted against it.
    There is no panacea at all for this “problem”. Not even great transit. The most you can expect is less car traffic and fewer instances of being stuck in it for less time. There is no “getting rid of” heavy traffic completely until the cost of driving a car becomes too expensive (wallet or time-wise). So let’s all take a breath before we convince ourselves that this is actually a problem.

  4. I don’t think anybody is suggesting that cycling is going to solve all of the North Shore’s traffic problems. (Transit can’t single-handedly solve all of the problems either.) Geography and distance work against this, although e-bikes can certainly help, especially with the hills. To imply that some people think that others should walk or cycle to Surrey is disingenuous.
    Yes, the North Shore needs better transit, but bikes can be and are part of the solution. We need to give people options so that we can reduce the number of car trips. The more options people have, the easier it is for people to make different choices.

    1. In all the cycling advocacy stuff I’ve encountered I have never heard of anyone advocating that cycling should replace all other modes. It’s always been advocating it as an addition.
      I suspect that it’s a way to slander it by making it seem impractical.

  5. Barry Rueger seems to imply that reducing the amount of car subsidies is a bad thing. It would provide an incentive to use the existing transit, car pool and provide necessary funds to expand transit.
    Expanding the road network would be worst thing we could do with general revenues.

    1. I disagree. Some road network enhancement, specifically both north shore bridges should have been done 20 years ago. NOW is OK too or by 2025.

      1. Thomas I am ok with expanding the road network only in a unsubsidized form. If we all have to pay the full cost of the roads plus externalities and we still have traffic then it would be ok to build more. I doubt if that traffic would materialize.

        1. Lets run the experiment of getting people to pay for their infrastructure/externalities and then build accordingly. I am sure we will find that transit is the one that is the most undersized, then bikes and then lastly roads for cars.

      2. Thomas, by the time we’ve paved over everything to build all the roads you want there will be nowhere left to go.

  6. It is quite good up to the point of analyzing what is wrong with transit on the North Shore, where he decides that the fares are too high compared to the cost of gas.
    If we can accept that people who live that side of the inlet are not so different to the rest of us, I would suggest that there are two reasons which mitigate against transit. Journey time and reliability. Transit becomes competitive with the car once you deal with that: usually by increasing service levels and providing some effective bus priority measures. Fares are not usually the critical issue in mode choice. Having to hang around places like Phibbs Exchange is a much larger deterrent, I think.
    Transit to and from the North Shore actually got cheaper, when the Compass system compromise ended zone fares for buses. And there is at least one bus route that I know is doing very well indeed: the express bus that serves the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. And how’s that route that finally allowed people to take a bus from West Vancouver into North Vancouver doing?

    1. Horseshoe Bay Express 257 recently became an Express when a Private service for Bowen Islanders started . HS Bay to downtown in 30 minutes.Translink management could not figure this out on their own for 20 years .The private bus WAITS for the passengers to get of the ferry. On the return trip a small private ferry WAiTS for the passengers ( Revolutionary)

  7. There’s that bogus accusation of “elite” again. Can we all put this to rest? There’s nothing elitist about being disenfranchised from a system that only designs for and subsidized motor traffic.

  8. PT, the North Shore was not the only community to vote against the referendum. The Mayor of West Van was against it because despite the highest taxes paid for transit here, we get pitiful transit. I grew up, worked in, and used transit for years in Vancouver. Vancouver gets more than it fair share of good transit-the regions like Surrey not. We have an Express Blue Bus that goes on the highway to serve BC Ferries with little or no benefit to those of us who pay for it yet live between the Lions Gate and Horseshoe Bay; we have a Lions Bay bus that goes on the highway from Caulfeild Village that could use a local street and yet serve three schools, a community centre, numerous community parks and walks and Horseshoe Bay that would supplement a 20 minute 250 service on Marine Drive but does not despite numerous appeals. There are four SeaBuses yet we hear we will get a third one -how many elections or campaigns have we heard that? There is and was anger re Translink on this side and not getting what we pay for-yet I hear about 10 minute and less bus service in Vancouver from my friends in Vancouver. Yet I voted yes for the Referendum-something I thought the mayors should not have bought into as a scam by the province. So please no lectures on who voted what as I know many Vancouverites who voted no-because of TransLink and its alleged incompetence. Translink fails its outlying areas, but Burnaby, New Westminster and Vancouver are the main beneficiaries. Having been fortunate to have travelled around the world, Translink does not work for the outlying areas-compare the rail and bus service in Perth and its many districts for their service.
    Yes, rail transit is the answer to the North Shore not more cars or trying to get people into shared vehicles when there is little difference between a bus and a co-op car re human nature. And the issue of cycling is well covered in Mr.Rueger’s comments.

    1. Vancouver, Burnaby and New West have better transit because they have higher densities and more people who use transit. The North Shore and especially West Van had much lower population growth than other parts of Metro Vancouver. Some North Shore residents feel hard done by and complain about poor transit, while at the same time rejecting the population growth that Vancouver had. TransLink can’t afford running mostly empty buses through West Van or to Deep Cove when there is more transit demand in other areas of the region.

      1. Empty buses? I suggest that you try the 250 Marine Drive bus on a regular basis. Or even the 257 which despite paying for, does not serve West Vancouver but BC Ferries and its provincial objects. The lack of funding in TransLink is because of provincial ego and incredibly expensive projects like SkyTrain when the rest of the world-yes, world, uses more efficient, less expensive but longer and useful forms of transit-commuter rail (check out how fast Seattle, Portland and LA have gone beyond the unique one way West Coast Express, or LRT, or even Ottawa’s DMU’s..Density is, of course, a reason for higher levels of service but funding comes from all the areas not just the treasured three. If you can prove to me that politics-municipal or provincial- is not involved in what will be an incredibly expensive subway to nowhere on Broadway-or the “evil” Massey Bridge, then maybe I might feel better. Again, just for interest look up Perth, Australia and its free downtown network, its electric narrow gauge rail system and its very good bus system to an area larger than ours…If we had that, there would be no complaints about TransLink.

        1. Agreed, the point was that TransLink runs the system to avoid half empty buses. Given limited funding the system is adjusted from time to time to serve the largest number of people possible. TransLink publishes a report every year that shows the use and cost of each bus route. You’ll see that many routes on the North Shore are higher cost than in Vancouver because of lower number of passengers.

        2. FYI Broadway;
          -busiest bus route in USA & Canada, >100,000 daily riders
          -every day >2000 pass ups on 99 B-line, > 500,000 per year
          -off peak is 75% capacity (capacity, not what’s comfortable)
          -2nd largest office district in Metro Van
          -95,000 jobs
          -2nd largest job hub in B.C., more jobs than next 8 largest Metro Van town centres combined
          -largest health care precinct in province, 8 major institutions, 40% all health care jobs in Metro Van.
          -87,000 daytime people at UBC by 2041, currently 60,000
          -6 of the 17 existing density nodes (2006 census) over 100 jobs/residential population per hectare in Metro Van
          -200,000 people live along Broadway Corridor
          -250,000 Skytrain trips on day it opens (Port Mann bridge 180,000, new George Massey Bridge 110,000)
          -320,000 boardings by 2041 (how did the boardings estimates work out on the Canada Line…significantly above)
          -in 1980’s planned for 30 years (~2010) and ranked ahead of Canada Line
          -original 2nd phase of Millennium Line (opened to Lougheed Stn and loop to New Westminster in 2002)

        3. #257 makes three stops in West Vancouver before ‘expressing’ to the ferry terminal. #250 serves the rest of Marine Drive area to Horseshoe Bay and according to the schedule has greater frequency in the morning rush than the #27 which services two Skytrain stations and connects north and south sides of East Van. West Van residents have little reason to complain IMO.

    2. City of Vancouver also voted (narrowly) against the referendum; Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam, PoCo, etc. voted much harder against than the NS communities. Everyone here knows that was a poor indicator of what people really want, so it’s a lazy argument to use. By that measure, no community anywhere wants transit, so let’s all hop in our pickups and go do some donuts.
      In reality there are two major constituencies on the North Shore: the rapidly densifying parts of North Van where people want an urban future, partly in anticipation of better amenities, transit and active transportation coming with it; and the more suburban parts, where sure, there are many folks who would be happy living forever in a low-density, car-intensive Fortress North Shore. Treating the North Shore as homogenous is no different than thinking the whole west side of Vancouver is full of one kind of person from Kits Point to Dunbar.
      The “urban” folks in North Van are growing to outnumber the “suburban” folks — based on the 45:55 referendum split (considering that sham of a process), they may already be a majority. These people would probably rather spend the $200+ million about to be spent by MOTI to upgrade the Cut on a serious transit upgrade, but that would have to be more than just a higher frequency 240 or a B-Line to Ambleside.
      As a 20-year NS cycling commuter, I agree that it will never capture the majority of traffic, but the bike lanes and multi-use trail networks being built definitely are taking much of the danger out of it, and there are many more cyclists on the road now because of that. Not much can be done about the hills and winter rains though.

      1. Of course this blog is also not a good representation of the overall populace as the truckers, the tradespeople, the container terminal shippers, the soccer mom with the mini-van and the suburban gardener tend NOT to blog here.
        We have to accommodate ALL walks of life. The able bodied, (often male), healthy biking crowd often tends to forget that.
        yes biking is healthy and good for you, and yes cars pollute, yet the individual (even if electric, shared, 2-wheeled or 3-wheeled or even autonomous) vehicle will be with us for centuries. Not everyone likes to be crowded into multi-passenger vehicles with strangers at times that are not convenient for them with A/C off or too cold, or too smelly or too bumpy. COMFORT and CONVENIENCE is required, and many people are willing to pay for it. Today in congested streets we pay in time, but many would happily pay more in $s and reduce the time.
        Time is money, and not everyone prefers the cheap bike ride or the $2.10 bus ride. Many prefer the $20 comfort ride at their own pace.

  9. Of course cycling is not the panacea that will solve all transportation problems, but it offers improved mobility and helps to improve transit and reduce motor vehicle congestion and is probably the least expensive way of achieving this. As a bonus, society reaps many benefits including improved health.
    It is true that relatively few people cycle now, but how many would drive if there were not a network of safe and convenient roads to get you to your destination? Statistics Canada data shows that the half of commute trips in Metro Vancouver are less than 8 km – an easy bike ride. They also show that those cycling are the happiest commuters. And cycling is super time efficient since transportation and exercise are combined in one activity. A recent insights west poll showed that already 5% of weekday commute trips in Metro Vancouver are by bike and 13% of people polled stated that cycling would be their ideal commute. The only thing missing is safe and convenient cycling infrastructure.
    The hugely successful Spirit Trail shows that people really do want to ride their bikes, so why aren’t there many more routes like this and why are new large developments being constructed without good cycling infrastructure?
    Barry mentions hills and longer distances. Yes – the north shore has hills but there are also shops which sell e-bikes. These are great for flattening hills and enabling longer commutes. Used with cycling highways – a concept being implemented in many cities – longer commutes will be entirely practical. A good start would be the creation of a cycling highway as part of the Mountain Highway interchange and connecting to the IWMB.
    No showers at workplace? City of Vancouver insists on these and secure bike parking for all new commercial buildings. Does DNV have such regulations? If not, why not?
    Barry mentions the incremental cost of a car trip being less than a bus trip. A solution to this is to have distance/time/location based road pricing combined with distance based insurance. One could then more easily compare the costs of the next trip and therefore choose either transit of cycling or both.
    Barry states: “Before you can start trying to get people out of their cars, you need to put in place the alternatives that they will be happy to use.” Very true. A safe and convenient cycling network should be an important part of any transportation system – even in the District of North Van. Good roads, good transit, good cycling, good regional planning – they all combine to form a great transportation system.

  10. “The person who is commuting by car will ask a few specific questions about any transportation option you offer them.
    They’ll ask how long it takes to get to and from their job. If they can’t get to work on time, or if they are forced leave home a half hour early just to be sure, they’ll stay in their car. If they arrive home an hour later, and miss their kid’s soccer game, they’ll stay in their car. If their commute includes a transfer in the middle – or two – and those connections are unreliable, they’ll stay in their car.
    They’ll ask how close the transit start point is from their home, and how far the end point is from their work. If it’s five blocks at each end, they’ll stay in their car. If the trip involves standing or riding in the rain, they’ll stay in their car.
    They might not ask about it, but they care about comfort. If the bus is old, noisy, and crowded, they’ll stay in their car. If the driver is rude, or the passengers smelly, or if they usually wind up standing for much of the trip, they’ll stay in their car.”
    This is well argued !
    As such we need more rapid transit AND more car moving infrastructure such as road or bridge tools, as some folks can chose to not drive from 7-10 am or 4-7 pm and thus leave the bridge for those willing to pay and move faster !
    The solution is NOT either/or but AND !
    btw: is there ANY discussion on a subway along Marine Drive ? If not, why not ?

    1. Nobody discusses a subway along Marine Drive likely because there aren’t nearly enough people living and working along the corridor to justify the investment.

        1. Skytran is an unproven technology who’s main purpose seems to be to disrupt plans for conventional mass transit projects with a distraction. When it seems like an LRT plan could happen along comes some snake oil salesman who turns people on to Skytran and claims that we shouldn’t be wasting money on LRT when Skytran is just around the corner and will be better. Then the LRT project is hopefully dropped and they can carry on forcing everyone to buy cars.

      1. I can imagine a Skytrain going east-west from Horseshoe Bay to Lynn Valley, somewhere up the hill with a great view out the window.
        There would have to be really good transit connections at the two bridges and somewhere near the SeaBus.
        It might cost a lot of course.

  11. A few follow-up points.
    Third Crossing? I don’t see that as even a faint possibility, both for the excellent reasons mentioned previously, and because I can’t see there ever being a political will to make it happen.
    The North Shore population isn’t that large, and seems happy to re-elect Liberals every time.
    Even if Victoria decided that the North Shore could use a third (or new bridge) they would need to get a North Shore neighbourhood to agree to have the traffic flow through their backyards, and at least Vancouver, and possibly Burnaby, on-side to accommodate the other end.
    That looks like an impossible scenario.
    Referendum? Even though we’ll be hearing about it for at least the next couple of decades, I suspect that even Jordan Bateman would agree that the referendum was designed to fail, and fail badly.
    If some senior level of government decides to embrace transit I expect the referendum will be forgotten very, very quickly.
    What is our goal? I think that when we’re debating bikes, bike lanes, transit, and referendums, we’re missing the larger goal: to reduce the number of cars – especially single occupancy commuting cars – on the roads.
    The problems we’ve been discussing are the overloaded highway stretches leading to and from the bridges, and the backups on surrounding streets.
    Once you’re away from those blockages it’s actually pretty easy to get around the North Shore by car (aside from the multiple and seemingly endless construction zones.)
    I’ll argue that for the foreseeable future you’ll need to accommodate a fairly large volume of people going over bridges to work, or for other reasons.
    The question is how to move those people in ways other than SOV cars.
    I still think that the only viable and practical way to move significant number so people out of their cars is with much improved transit.
    I actually think we’re seeing the last days of personal automobiles, especially gasoline powered ones. That’s another reason why a third crossing doesn’t seem likely.
    Build it and They Will Come,/b>The argument that Translink can’t improve service because there’s no demand always feels suspect to me. I still believe that if you could really ramp up service off and on to the North Shore – and even within it – you would see an increase in ridership.
    I’m wondering what the ridership was on busses up and down Cambie Street before the Canada Line was built. Were there people lined up at the side of the road, desperate for transit service that couldn’t be provided? Were people clamoring for a train that ran from the airport to the Seabus?
    Not really. That line was built to allow Gordon Campbell to show off to the IOC, not because of any identified need.
    I suspect that Translink and the Campbell government built the line on the assumption that once it was in operation it would prove to be popular, even though there were likely a few other routes that would have been much more sensible places for a new subway.
    Elite Cyclists My bike is an old Raliegh I got from Craigslist. That’s not what you’ll see travelling back and forth every day on the Second Narrows or Lions Gate bridges.
    I’d say that if a garden variety commuting bike is priced at $1000, and top of the line bikes at nearly ten times that much, then yeah, that’s pretty elite.
    E-bikes seem to be starting at around four or five grand. That’s hardly transit for the masses.
    I honestly do support all of the bike infrastructure that’s happening, but can see no way that it will make a significant dent in the automobile traffic on the North Shore.

    1. “I actually think we’re seeing the last days of personal automobiles, especially gasoline powered ones.”
      Cute.
      Maybe in dense rich parts of the world, with moderate weather, like downtown Vancouver. Car ownership worldwide is growing. Yes, we will see more e-cars in cities. The individual vehicle is alive and well as it means: FREEDOM to move, to go any time, in any weather, in any temperature, rain or snow or -20 or +45 IN COMFORT, without wait.
      Yes they may be more electric, or smaller, or shared, or more autonomous. But the IV (individual vehicle) will be with us for centuries !

      1. “FREEDOM”, “COMFORT”–those two terms describe perfectly why personal automobiles will be us for a long time. Many on this forum seem to think that if they ignore those huge benefits of driving that they won’t matter in our transportation infrastructure decision making. As is the case in a lot of other areas, we need to reeducate our planners to develop our cities, etc. to fit the reality that applies to the local region and not to some social engineering utopia. This will happen as soon as we start electing politicians who are tuned into reality.

        1. The “social engineering” you’re referring to, I assume, is the century of social engineering by auto industry…

        2. So suppose you were a politician and you saw that in a poll on commuting that in Metro Vancouver, 5% of the people polled used a bike and 41% used a motor vehicle but when asked what would be their perfect commute, 13% said bike and only 31% said car. Would you put all of the scarce tax dollars into improving the road network or would you satisfy the demand of taxpayers and put some of it into cycling?

    2. I agree strongly with your argument of “build it and they will come.” Indeed, I think I agree with you overall, but I want to quibble about how you frame the problem.
      I disagree that the goal should be to reduce the number of cars on the roads. That makes cars and their problems the priority. I am privileged enough to have a car, but I have friends who cannot (and may never) afford to own cars. For them, the problem is not congestion: it is just being able to get around at all. Trips, by whatever mode, are valuable.
      I am suspicious of your characterization of drivers and why they will not take transit. Not because I think these arguments are wrong: I have heard them all, and one by one they are believable (though not proven: people who see their identity as “drivers” threatened may not always behave as they expect to behave). But they paint a portrait of an average person who drives, when in fact, like the family with 2.1 kids, no such person exists.
      In my view, there is no point trying to address the concerns of the mythical average driver when none of us are “drivers”: we are people who sometimes drive. People drive, or take transit, etc. for their own individual reasons in their own individual circumstances. Any of us might take transit in the right situation, but we would no less be “drivers.” Now I realize you are talking specifically about commuters, but it seems to me the that emphasis you give to this portrait is overly pessimistic because it takes “driver” rather than “person” as its starting point and perspective, and sets up a nearly impossible list of conditions. Like a snowboarder, where we look is where we go: if we focus on cars, even in the negative, then that is where we will be.
      Again, I think I am agreeing with you: a black-and-white attempt to change the religion of drivers is bound to fail. Instead, we should aim to provide trips. A family is unlikely to give up their car: but they might choose not to buy a second. Similarly, many people in my single-family neighbourhood drive all the time – but when they go down town, they take the train.
      This is fundamentally why you are correct to say build it and they will come: they will come even though those conditions and complaints about transit are not met, because each person, in their own individual situation, is making this particular trip this way. Each trip builds a positive constituency for transit (just as Vancouver appears to be doing with bicycles). When that constituency is big enough, it will transform the discussion. I imagine a future where the first question we ask is not “what about traffic,” or “what about parking,” but instead “what about transit,” or “are the sidewalks nice,” or “can I get there by bike.” If those are the questions we ask, then we will build trains instead of bridges and it does not so much matter what is the state of congestion.

      1. Geof. So true. I find it odd that something like travel mode is viewed as a marker of identity when it’s something that can change multiple times within a day.
        I had a co-worker when the Canada Line was being built who lived in Richmond and worked near Cambie and Broadway. She was complaining one day about traffic congestion and I commented that she must then be excited about the new Skytrain line to Richmond that would take her so close to work. She looked at me like I was crazy. She would never take public transit ever. It was beneath her. Full of icky people. Slow and uncomfortable.
        Well, a year later she was taking it and finding it so much faster and pleasant than driving to work. She was now doing something she had never done in her life because it had been built and was attractive and useful. People change.

        1. “People change”.
          Not so sure if people change. People will change behavior when they are offered choices that did not exist before. So if the traffic gets worse, or there is a new bike lane (Arbutus Greenway, for example, or North Share trails), or ther is now car2Go or there is an LRT or new fast bus then of course people look at these options and reconsider their past behavior.
          he issue in MetroVan is that RAPID transit options are off the table because the councils are run by socialists who think that people are unwilling to spend money and cater to a voter base that is below average income. They think buses are cool. They think people are unwilling to spend money to get somewhere FAST. That is the disconnect. The cities undercharge on properties and overpay their employees and THAT is the very reason why they do not have the money to invest in subways or wider bridges. A metroplex of 2.5M people, soon 3M+ needs far more RAPID transit, to the northshore, along the north shore, to E-Van and further east, to UBC. Not in 20 years. NOW.
          The political leadership is weak.
          ==> Bikes and buses to the rescue will NOT solve our transit issues !

        2. Thomas, it isn’t local councils that starve transit – it’s your “Liberal” government in Victoria that is to blame.

        3. That’s what I meant. People change when conditions change. In this case the rapid transit my old co-worker was offered was so much more attractive than anything she had encountered before that she was into it.
          So I think we agree on this.

  12. A few follow-up points.
    Third Crossing? I don’t see that as even a faint possibility, both for the excellent reasons mentioned previously, and because I can’t see there ever being a political will to make it happen.
    The North Shore population isn’t that large, and seems happy to re-elect Liberals every time.
    Even if Victoria decided that the North Shore could use a third (or new bridge) they would need to get a North Shore neighbourhood to agree to have the traffic flow through their backyards, and at least Vancouver, and possibly Burnaby, on-side to accommodate the other end.
    That looks like an impossible scenario.
    Referendum? Even though we’ll be hearing about it for at least the next couple of decades, I suspect that even Jordan Bateman would agree that the referendum was designed to fail, and fail badly.
    If some senior level of government decides to embrace transit I expect the referendum will be forgotten very, very quickly.
    What is our goal? I think that when we’re debating bikes, bike lanes, transit, and referendums, we’re missing the larger goal: to reduce the number of cars – especially single occupancy commuting cars – on the roads.
    The problems we’ve been discussing are the overloaded highway stretches leading to and from the bridges, and the backups on surrounding streets.
    Once you’re away from those blockages it’s actually pretty easy to get around the North Shore by car (aside from the multiple and seemingly endless construction zones.)
    I’ll argue that for the foreseeable future you’ll need to accommodate a fairly large volume of people going over bridges to work, or for other reasons.
    The question is how to move those people in ways other than SOV cars.
    I still think that the only viable and practical way to move significant number so people out of their cars is with much improved transit.
    I actually think we’re seeing the last days of personal automobiles, especially gasoline powered ones. That’s another reason why a third crossing doesn’t seem likely.
    Build it and They Will Come. The argument that Translink can’t improve service because there’s no demand always feels suspect to me. I still believe that if you could really ramp up service off and on to the North Shore – and even within it – you would see an increase in ridership.
    I’m wondering what the ridership was on busses up and down Cambie Street before the Canada Line was built. Were there people lined up at the side of the road, desperate for transit service that couldn’t be provided? Were people clamoring for a train that ran from the airport to the Seabus?
    Not really. That line was built to allow Gordon Campbell to show off to the IOC, not because of any identified need.
    I suspect that Translink and the Campbell government built the line on the assumption that once it was in operation it would prove to be popular, even though there were likely a few other routes that would have been much more sensible places for a new subway.
    Elite Cyclists My bike is an old Raliegh I got from Craigslist. That’s not what you’ll see travelling back and forth every day on the Second Narrows or Lions Gate bridges.
    I’d say that if a garden variety commuting bike is priced at $1000, and top of the line bikes at nearly ten times that much, then yeah, that’s pretty elite.
    E-bikes seem to be starting at around four or five grand. That’s hardly transit for the masses.
    I honestly do support all of the bike infrastructure that’s happening, but can see no way that it will make a significant dent in the automobile traffic on the North Shore.

    1. “Lecturing commuters about the “real costs” of driving (either in terms of infrastructure or in terms of the environment) won’t move more than a marginal number of people out…” Agreed. Lecturing won’t move people out of their cars. But actually imposing those true costs through road pricing will… see London. That, in turn, will drive more calls for better, cheaper transit, safe bike infrastructure, etc. which, in turn, will give elected officials and transportation authorities the “permission” to push (and fund) these more effective transportation options.

      1. Hi Martyn,
        London was successful with congestion charges because they already had a comprehensive tube and train system in place, and a large existing population who had never owned a car, or even a licence to drive.
        It was easy to transition to transit.

        1. Always an endless number of reasons to insist it won’t work “here”… This time, instead, let’s do what some other cities are already doing/have already done – let’s try it. Road pricing needs to happen anyway – increasing congestion, climate risk, changing energy landscape, increasing costs to build/maintain/service roads, rising costs of associated health risks, dramatic increase in vulnerable road user deaths/injuries, etc. demand it. The longer we wait, the worse it’ll get.

        2. @Martyn: Indeed. But we need to also have RAPID alternatives that are nowhere in sight to E-Van, to N-Shore, along N-Shore and to UBC.

      2. I laugh when people compare driving on London’s medieval street layout with driving on Vancouver’s grid which was created almost in sync with the rise of the automobile. Apples and oranges. The only congestion in Vancouver’s core is caused by civic government policy.

        1. So what policy is causing congestion in the downtown core? I thought it was simply too many cars, And people stuck in intersections when light changes thereby causing complete gridlock. And crashes causing road closures.

        2. The only congestion in Vancouver’s core is caused by “civic government policy.”
          I think you misspelled “overwhelming percentage of people making personal choices to travel in a vehicle only using a quarter of its capacity.”

        3. Actually, the grid was determined by the streetcar. Unfortunately the streetcars were scrapped but we are extremely fortunate that the freeway plans were halted. Drivers should be fortunate that great strides have been made to encourage more people to cycle so at least we now have a choice as to whether we want to contribute to motor vehicle congestion

    2. Barry, e-bikes start at around $1500. You are talking about high end models. However, we might ask why there is a PST exemption on bikes but not on e-bikes. We might also ask why there are massive provincial subsidies for the purchase of e-cars but none for e-bikes.

      1. Even a $3,000 ebike is less expensive than transit if the bike is used for 3 years or more.
        The cost savings with an ebike over a (second) family car are even more obvious.
        I won’t question why somebody biking from the North Shore to Vancouver is elitist but not someone who drives. The idea gets even more confusing if the same person sometimes drives and sometimes bikes, or puts the bike on a bus or SeaBus. Does it cancel the eliteness of cycling or augment it?

  13. Who said that bicycles are a North Shore panacea?
    Good luck making transit a panacea where most people live in single-family houses.
    There is no panacea for North Shore transportation, only the usual boring incremental improvements in land use and transportation options.

  14. Within the two North Vancouvers, the Marine Drive/3rd Street/Main Street corridor from bridge to bridge have long been planned for frequent transit service, buses for the time being, and eventually surface rail. To this end, regulations require that new development be set back 50′ from the centreline, creating an ultimate 100′ ROW, like Central Broadway. Further, planning and zoning policies in this corridor are definitely of urban intensities, with even higher density nodes at Lower Capilano, Lonsdale, Lower Lynn and Maplewood Village just east of the Second Narrows.
    This corridor also includes, by my estimate anyway, the great majority of the jobs that are located in these two municipalities. The same goes for Marine Drive in West Van from Park Royal to Dundarave.
    I think the 2 North Vans are showing that they are serious about taking their fair share of regional growth. What they and West Van don’t have is sufficient transit service that is delivered in synch with planned growth, if not in slight advance of it. The latter approach would definitely help grow a culture of transit-oriented people.

    1. Oh cool. So they do have a corridor for rapid transit figured out already?
      So start with BRT along the route. Then when ridership is developed you build a Skytrain. (I’d like to see it elevated so that you can look out the window at the view when you ride it.)

      1. Marine drive BRT would be great. I would settle for bus or HOV lanes on Marine drive. So the 239 bus would not be stuck in gridlock .

  15. A bit of contextual information
    In Denmark, 87% of all bike tripw are below 5km and in fact the average trip length is ~3km, with 73% below 3km).
    In Netherlands, things are not much different:take the city of Utrecht (an university town):
    The modal split for trip below 7.5km is 45% for bike when transit is at 4%
    for trip 7.5 to 15km, bike share fell at 15% and transit increase at 15%
    for trip longer than 15km, bike share fell below the 2% mark and transit raise at 30%
    What that said? pretty much that Barry Rueger is right.
    Every mode of transportation has a range of relevance and the North shore – Vancouver trips fell out of the range of relevance for cycling…
    However one has to also recognize that short trip (<5km ) tend to be better addressed by cycling than transit.
    What that said?
    Transit is really the answer fro cross-inlet trip, and it needs to be think along the lines exposed in my previous comment here to make sense to the North shore residents.
    However, for many intra North shore trip, as well as the first mile (such as people wanting to take the bus 257 at Horseshoe bay)…cycling needs to become much more practical – bike lanes are important, but here the main issue could be the lack of secured enough (and easy enough to use) bike storage be at horseshoe bay, park royal… (forgot to mention that in Netherlands, 40% of the transit riders get to their transit station per bike…).
    In short one has to recognize that different transportation modes have different range of relevance and the different mode of transportation need to work in complementarity and not in competition.
    PS in case of, long time ago Bill McCreery proposed to build a monorail to the North Shore: the proposal is accessible from here https://voony.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/voonys-library/
    (click on ‘a rapid transit crossing for Burarrd Inlet’ link)

    1. From Lonsdale and 3rd St to downtown Vancouver is only 10.7 km by bike and takes 37 min. I’ll wager that most people can make this commute by bike quicker than by car during “rush” hours. Of course Seabus beats all other modes at only 21 min.

      1. The SeaBus is lovely but slow because of the time it takes to walk to/from the terminal on the Vancouver side, the time spent waiting and loading. It is usually faster to bike, unless you live close to Lonsdale Quay.
        It is also cheaper to bike, even with an elitist $1,000 bike 😉

        1. SEABUS WAITING. Had translink bought 4 new 200 pax ferries instead of 2 new 400 passenger ferries there would be a 7 minute or less wait time . the crew size depends on the number of passengers . Not like a bus where there is one driver big or small. OFF the rack cost less than custom built

    2. Actually, bike rider takes the least time, since she gets exercise at the same time so we need only allocate 18.5 min toward the commute. And if she doesn’t purchase the first or second car, she saves all the work time going toward purchasing and feeding the car. Bike rider wins in so many ways.

    3. Voony, This from an article by the ECF relating to the Netherlands:
      For home-to-work commutes, people are willing to cover longer distances than for all trip purposes combined. On a regular bike, the average distance covered is 4.5 km, on an electric assisted bike 7.6 km. Commuters who exchanged their car for a regular bike, cycled on average 9.8 km and 11.7 km on an electric assisted bicycle. Most Dutch are prepared to e-cycle as much as 15 km to work (7.5 km on a regular bike).

    4. I love it. At a cost of a mere $32M. When was this written ?
      Brilliant idea. Such a no-brainer.
      Yet: still not here. Why is that ?

    1. North Vancouver has a higher bike commute mode share than Richmond (Stats Canada census data). Hills are somewhat of a deterrent, but are only one factor in whether people chose to bike or not.
      There are also various ways people are managing hills – bike with low gearing, ebike, putting bike on bus or walking if it’s just a couple of steep blocks.
      Separation from car traffic helps immensely with going up hills. There are very few streets on the North Shore that have protected bike lanes uphill or an off street path well suited to cycling. The ones that exist have sketchy or no connecting infrastructure (e.g. Lillooet Rd in the District or Chesterfield in the City).

  16. According to Hart and Spivak – The Elephant in the Bedroom: Automobile Dependence and Denial – the subsidy to motorists is $5,000.00 per car per year.
    Building roads is like building smokers lounges.
    One of the best books, familiar of course to urban planners, is Suburban Nation, by the people who designed Seaside; along with hundreds of other neighbourhoods.
    There’s too much “how” and almost no “why” when it comes to transportation. It’s a massively expensive boondoggle – almost as wasteful as war. Remember the “fast ferries”.
    Why is drinking water transported in plastic jugs by diesel trucks by rapacious corporations – when we have the best drinking water in the world right out of the tap. Coca Cola takes our pure water and pollutes our air and fills our roads while making a fortune on a free product. Insane.
    At the very least, as a token gesture, the City of Vancouver should ban these corporations from installing vending machines inside community centres. Even Science World has Coke machines. Are there Coke machines inside churches?
    How much of transportation is bullshit like this. This is outside of addressing the inanity of SOV’s – the auto maniacs – the auto besotted.

  17. North Shore commuters are not solely responsible for the traffic congestion. Take a look at Google traffic in the morning and afternoon and you will see that traffic congestion is often counter to those leaving in the morning and then returning in the evening. The biggest congestion occurs toward North Van early morning (Ironworkers’) and toward this bridge mid-afternoon. This is construction related with dump trucks, demolition trucks, concrete trucks all coming to the North Shore to rebuild our houses and then leaving later in the day.

  18. Another reason why we rejected the transit levy is that the North Shore does not see its fair share of funding. All during the referendum, both Vancouver and Surrey made it quite certain that they would demand the lion’s share for their use. When we have transit that takes less than 1 1/2 hours to get from Upper Lonsdale (less than 15 kms) to downtown or doesn’t have commuters running, yes running, from the seabus at the Quay to get a bus seat on their bus home then we’d be more amenable to funding more. It’s as if Translink just assumes we’ll drive in any case.

    1. I’m calling you on your lie.
      I take the bus to the north shore from downtown fairly regularly and while the service could be better it is not as you describe. 1 1/2 hours?! You can get almost everywhere from anywhere in less than an hour including the seabus to downtown. We therefore cannot believe anything you say.
      Lie number 2:
      In the transit plan you were going to get another Seabus run which would have increased the entire north shore transit capacity by 50% since most buses tie to the Seabus schedule.
      You vote against improvements and then complain about the service.
      Pretty pathetic!

  19. When hiring a tradesperson, it is common to pay for their commute time. That great carpenter you found that happens to be living far from you is going to bill you big time for the round trip – figure $150.00 per day before he puts on his tool belt. Rational people will hire someone living close.
    When I worked on the North Shore and suffered the expensive commute from Vancouver, the billionaire employer compensated me zero. At least half of the employees drove distances for jobs that could have been done by those living nearby. A couple of them spent 3 hours per day commuting. But there is no incentive on the part of the billionaire to chip in for the trip. No incentive to hire locally. If you are commuting to work, you are already working.
    If employers had to pay for worker commute times, most of this idiotic painful punishing commuting would stop. Obviously the billionaire could afford to pay for employees’ commutes. But why would he bother? He’s got the moolah, and he wants to keep it all for himself. Billions.
    It’s not the how of commuting. It’s the why.

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