An old definition of a political liberal was a conservative who hadn’t been mugged yet. In similar fashion, the North Shore News reports that a lousy day on local roads turned the District of North Vancouver Council’s planned meeting agenda from its multi-modal Transportation Plan into a very old fashioned kvetch-sesh about traffic.
“The District of North Vancouver is preparing to embark on a major review of its transportation master plan.
Staff’s suggestions included a protected bicycle network, updating the district’s parking policies, a focus on the Main/Marine transit corridor, better co-ordination of traffic signals and whether the district ought to become a vision zero community – a growing movement among cities vowing to design their streets in such a way that there are zero traffic-related deaths or injuries.”

Phibbs Exchange redesign – on the agenda

Interesting stuff. However, this being a rainy day, a more poignant topic of discussion arose from the attendees.

“…the informal session quickly turned to an airing of grievances as the morning commute of many councillors had been particularly exasperating with near-simultaneous crashes on the Cut, Stanley Park causeway and Westview overpass.”

The story continues by noting on some uncomfortably-predictable exchanges between councillors.

“Coun. Jim Hanson said he faces the prospect of losing staff at his North Vancouver law firm, as their commute from across Burrard Inlet saps their quality of life. Hanson said the plan ought to come with some immediate steps that will alleviate congestion.”

  • Congestion hurts [my] business.


the steady drip of Quality-of-Life being sapped

“We need to integrate our efforts with the other civic governments of the North Shore, who are contributing to density without in any way contributing to infrastructure, which is overtaxed,” he said.

  • It’s everyone else’s fault.

Coun. Mathew Bond, who is a transportation systems engineer, said his morning commute to Coquitlam took twice as long as it normally would have with a lineup of stop-and-go traffic on Highway 1 stretching 20 kilometres past the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing.
“People can change their behaviour today if they so choose,” he said. “Doing some small, incremental things over time over the next two, three or five years, will buy us some time to make those major infrastructure investments and do those plans that are going to provide long-term relief.”

  • Man who commutes 70 kms/day by car says [other] people should change their behaviour.

But Coun. Lisa Muri questioned whether residents could be persuaded to leave the car at home, especially when their work, errands or family commitments may require them to travel to several neighbourhoods, numerous times in the day.
“I don’t know how to change my behaviour to get from Lonsdale to Seymour without changing my whole family’s life,” she said. “It’s awesome to think that if you build it, people will get out of their cars and onto a bus or another mode of transportation but is it going to happen? . . .  People have cars. They want convenience. They want to be able to get to their destinations quickly.”

  • Woman counters with, ‘No, they shouldn’t.’

Instead, Muri suggested it may be time to pull up the drawbridge on the North Shore. “I envision there’s room for 100 people at the party and there’s 500 in the lineup out the front door and they all want to come into the party. I just want to say to the 400, ‘You know what? We’re full now. You’re just going to have to wait your turn.’ But we’re not doing that,” she said.

  • Let’s fix things by keeping others out.

Coun. Robin Hicks rubbished the notion that trying to stop population growth would solve any problems, noting that banishing the North Shore’s service workers to the farther-flung suburbs would only add more cars onto local roads.
“We can’t put up barriers or walls like Trump might try to do. People are just going to come here from everywhere,” he said. “We’ve got to learn to live with the population.”

  • That’s not a good idea; and we have to mention Trump.


eerily familiar

These are only reported snippets of conversation from the meeting. Perhaps it also included some thoughtful discussion on the notion of incremental change; and maybe participants went on to keenly demonstrate their understanding that traffic is not an ‘all or nothing’ concept and that ‘car vs. bus or bike for all trips’ is a false choice.
Once can only hope that such influential people employing such very old tropes was just a quick venting of understandable frustration at a stressful drive into work. We can further hope that their frustration does not translate into opposition for sensible change – even at the occasional expense of driving convenience and motorist entitlement. I certainly hope so; because at some point this winter, it may rain again.


  1. Traffic doesn’t thin out until you get to Capilano. It’s always busy right through, Dollarton, then Fern for Seymour and Keith west, up to Lonsdale and on. The entire hilly and mixed residential and commercial area is built for private vehicles.
    Some of the municipalities have commissioned studies and want to restrict more growth. They also figure if the bridges are kept to the size they are now, then people won’t move up there. The whole area around east Keith can be very trying and I doubt the improvements, that should be completed in a month or two, are going to make much difference.
    They’ll soon be calling for a ten lane bridge.

  2. I found this summary comical, but also quite cynical.
    It really does not acknowledge the fact that just having these discussions is again a sign of real progress. In the past I feel some of the items discussed, for example a network of protected bike lanes, might have been laughed out of Council, but no longer.
    Sadly it never mentions the fact Council had previously endorsed a motion for a protected bike routes network in the DNV or that Lynn Valley Road work is already underway for the DNV’s first protected lane.
    There are lots of reasons for hope in the DNV, but those of us who want change must keep the pressure on. Its coming if we keep pushing.
    Tony Valente
    Chair HUB North Shore

    1. I agree. I think progress has been made. Five years ago there would have been death threats and conspiracy theories involving space aliens that were plotting to take away their cars or something.
      Now it’s much better. Some people are still struggling to understand these “new” things but at least they’re trying to.

    2. I agree it was both of those things, Tony. The last two paragraphs acknowledge that the bits of the conversation recorded hopefully did not tell the whole picture. There may be lots of progress made on the shore, but I don’t agree that just because people complain about traffic and want to take some comically draconian measures to counter it, that in itself counts as progress. The bits reported upon were not a progressive conversation – just some frustrated commuters wanting to move heaven and earth so they’re never stuck in traffic again, which is the opposite of progress.

  3. Dan,
    As a PriceTags reader, I have come to expect provactive questions discussed and thoughtfully analyzed here. In my opinion, this post reads like “Newspaper reporter summarizes a 2 hour meeting using 10 quoted sentences that fits his story narrative. Blogger summarizes the newspaper article to suit his own narrative while blantently admitting that he never actually listened to the full policy discussion.”
    With respect to your opinion on my comments, your implied criticism is completely unwarranted. I do drive 50km round-trip to work on average once a week, something you would have heard had you listened to the full discussion. The other 4 days, I use a combination of biking and transit. The point I made during the balance of the policy discussion is that under our historical transportation and land use structures, choices and options are extremely limited and behaviour change comes with very difficult trade offs. If we want to change the status quo, choice and options need to be expanded to make the trade offs easier.

    1. I agree. It was overall a thoughtful council discussion that touched on many different aspects and solutions. A disappointing post for Pricetags.

    2. Councillor, it’s quite common in PT to comment upon news articles. I openly acknowledged at the end of the piece that the parts of the meeting’s conversation that made it into the article may not have told the whole story. However, the bulleted summations of the quoted portions of the article were neither misleading nor misrepresented the actual text; unless of course the North Shore News fabricated each of those quotes on your respective behalves.
      Assuming these things were actually said, whether you feel someone pointing them out is constructive or not is immaterial. The point of the piece was that there were some decidedly un-constructive things discussed at this meeting about a likely worthwhile transportation plan.

      1. The challenge to solving the North Shore’s many transportation problems is that all conversations begin or end with whatever manages to be reported in the North Shore News.
        That by necessity tends to be excerpts from much larger, more nuanced conversations.
        This is not a criticism of the NSN reporting staff. They actually do a pretty good job within some pretty major constraints, and even do so in a remarkably neutral fashion.
        It’s easy to point fingers at municipal elected officials.
        These conversations involve a large group of people – Councillors, transportation planners and other staff, legal staff, committees, transportation consultants, the Province, developers, and many different groups representing specific viewpoints – cyclists or disabled persons being obvious examples.
        The conversations don’t just happen at a specific meeting, they take place over months, years, or decades, and that longitudinal context is an important part of understanding how and why decisions are made.
        This particular meeting was viewed by knowledgeable people as representing a remarkable move by Council in accepting that cars are not the only solution, and that addressing the infrastructure needed by pedestrians and cyclists (among others) has to also be front and center.
        This is especially true because so much of the North Shore’s commuter traffic woes are hostage to the whims of the Provincial government.
        It has to be a source of great frustration at District Council that the same voters who elect Liberal MLAs over and over will phone, email, or write letters to the editor complaining bitterly that Council can’t fix transit, or the traffic on the Second Narrows or Lions Gate bridges.

        1. BARRY (1) Council can decide which cars HOV or SOV get priority access on municipal roads to both bridges (2)BUS lanes on council roads.

      2. Hi Dan, I attended the workshop and the only nonconstructive mention during the discussion was probably to pull up the drawbridge – although it also needs to be acknowledged this is what many North Shore residents would like to see. There isn’t a simple solution to the congestion issues on the North Shore and the council comments reflect this.
        In a more informal workshop discussion it’s unhelpful to jump on every comment (taken out of context if only referring to the quotes in the North Shore News article) and saying it’s very old tropes. If it is worth your while to write a commentary on the workshop I would expect you watched the meeting video to understand all that has been discussed.

        1. “(1) Council can decide which cars HOV or SOV get priority access on municipal roads to both bridges (2)BUS lanes on council roads.”
          True, but for:
          (1) Speeding up the way traffic gets from point A to either bridge doesn’t really work if when they get within a couple of kilometers they find that traffic is moving at 2 kmh.
          The bottleneck is the point where all three lanes are jammed full of cars, not on the feeder routes.
          You might see some incremental improvement due to carpooling, but I can’t see that volume changing in any way, soon. The volumes of vehicles is just too large.
          (2) Adding bus lanes does nothing if Translink can’t/won’t increase service levels.
          And I do not consider robbing Peter (routes elsewhere) to pay Paul (routes here) as a reasonable solution.

        2. I’m sorry the point of my post seems so elusive to those who’ve simply reacted to it and not actually considered its main assertion. But that’s blogging for you.

        1. The 2-hour long committee meeting video? No, thank you. I invite you to read my much shorter post or the North Shore News article. I can’t speak for why the bulk of the NSN article choose to dwell on councillors’ complaints instead of constructive parts of their conversation. But the point of my post was not that nothing worthy or constructive got discussed. The point was that a lousy day on the roads turned good intentions into some reactionary and sadly familiar opinions of frustration.

        2. Dan, if you don’t want to watch the council workshop video please do the councillors and North Van residents who work constructively on the transportation issues the favour and don’t post unconstructive commentary based on a few quotes. Even better, come and attend next year’s transportation workshop. The council will often invite members of the public to comment at the end of the workshop.

  4. Re: Phibbs Exchange renovations in North Van – It will look a hell of a lot better with some greenery, good lighting, quality shelters, seating, and garbage collection. Also great to see bioswales to collect and cleanse the runoff. The elephant in the room with Phibbs Exchange, however, is that there are no “eyes” on the place. It is a scary, abandoned place at times and worst at night. People waiting there are vulnerable. Does the new design address that? Does the municipality have the will and tools to address that? Some complementary land uses/services that provide “eyes” on the street are needed.

    1. The conceptual plan for Phibbs shows the bus exchange closer to Main Street with bus stops on Main St itself. A coffee shop space facing Phibbs has been built in the new rental apartment building west of the exchange. TransLink was considering a food retail stall on the exchange itself. The area will also have ‘more eyes’ once more people live in the town centre.

  5. ” The point I made during the balance of the policy discussion is that under our historical transportation and land use structures, choices and options are extremely limited and behaviour change comes with very difficult trade offs. If we want to change the status quo, choice and options need to be expanded to make the trade offs easier.”
    Absolutely on the mark Mathew.
    North Shore travelers are stuck. The volume of autos going to and from the North Shore is choked by two bridges that are pretty much at capacity. To a large degree this reflects the suburban nature of our communities, and the design decisions made decades ago when that looked like a good way to build towns.
    We really do need a change of focus, away from “cars first” to one that supports walking, cycling, and transit first on routes other than the Upper Levels, with single occupancy autos as the afterthought.
    If we can manage to create really good transit, walking, and cycling environments, people will begin to choose to leave their cars at home.

    1. THE bridges are at CAR capacity not PEOPLE capacity .That is why BUS & HOV deserve priority on the municipal roads that are close to both bridges. Not much point in using transit or carpooling to get stuck in the same gridlock

  6. The current problems are largely the result of the NDP ‘s ridiculous decision to rebuild the Lions Gate Bridge as is. The bridge should have been decommissioned and a tunnel built from Pemberton Avenue to downtown. More than any traffic calming this would have reduced the amount of cars transiting through the West End.

    1. (1) NDP proposed a new crossing in 1993 to be paid for by tolls.( All 3 north shore councils wanted FREE .but not proposing to pay the additional cost themselves.Someone has to pay. (2)Downtown Vancouver would have been gridlocked .

      1. The NDP has always underbuilt infrastructure. About the only big thing they got going last time was the Island Highway. In part this is the reason we get the BC Liberal overreaction by overbuilding.

        1. Overbuilding ? SFPR is clogged already with 4 lanes ! Lionsgate, Second Narrows, Oak Street and Knight Street bridge all at capacity and far too small.
          The ONLY overbuilding one could argue is Massey and Hwy 1 but those too will be at capacity in 20-30 years. Let’s called it forward thinking.
          CanadaLine is underbuilt and too short. No subway on Broadway in sight nor on or to north shore.
          Ovrbuilt, hah !

  7. A partial answer to NS transportation issues is the retention and expansion of employment opportunities coupled with housing targeted to working people. As a WV Councillor recently commented (in the context of proposed taxation of non-primary residences), people who work in that municipality cannot afford to live there. Their trips, and others just like them in the other two jurisdictions, form a large part of the twice daily commute trips, by all modes.

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