March 12, 2020

Back to Vancouver’s Future North Shore Rapid Transit Connection

I wrote earlier about the six proposed routes that could connect the North Shore municipalities of West Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver and District of North Vancouver with the region’s rapid transit line.  I also wrote about what I thought would be the preferred option which is a rail or tunnel crossing at the Second Narrows Bridge which would tie into either Brentwood or Metrotown in Burnaby for access to the region’s rapid transit system. I also think the existing  seabus will be augmented with more sailings.

Of course you could hear the guffaws from West Vancouver where even a rapid bus was seen as causing congestion and not needed. But the truth is that this connection is not about them, but about future residents and future town centers which could locate on the north shore, and which would require access to some kind of rapid transit system to get people to services and jobs.

As the region continues to develop, several North Shore town centres can develop and an enhanced seabus service and rail link through Burnaby could connect the downtown and the region.

Intrepid Price Tags reader Ross Bligh (yes, he is the Dad of Price Tags’ Architectural Reporter James Bligh) wrote to the editors regarding this Simon Fraser University study covered by Brent Richter in the North Shore News.

Stephan Nieweler, transportation instructor in Simon Fraser University’s  department of geography, and  former students did work two years ago on where a rapid transit alignment would go.  Their vision encompassed a connection across the Second Narrows Bridge and a gondola that rode up to Capilano University.

The team went one step further, examining the density of people that lived within a five minute or 400 meter walk of  already established rapid train stations.

Using a metric developed by sustainable transportation author Robert Cervero,  Nieweler concluded  that 14 to 30 residents/positions  per acre were needed for a light rail line  to be placed on the North Shore.  A density of  27 to 45 per acre was needed  for a subway or Skytrain. Surprisingly the existing Lonsdale stretch has almost 75 people per acre.

As  North Shore News Brent Richter wrote:

“In raw numbers, Nieweler’s analysis found the North Shore LRT, if it existed today, would have more than 111,000 people and employees within 400 metres of the line, compared to 93,500 on the proposed Arbutus to UBC line or 46,680 for Surrey LRT.

They also forecast into the future, using the Official Community Plans to gauge population and employment growth. Over the next 20 years, the case is even stronger, Nieweler found, with almost 160,000 residents or jobs within 400 metres of the North Shore line, compared to 113,500 for the Broadway extension and 78,100 in Surrey.”

While the Nieweler study did not examine car ownership rates, population demographics, employment types and current commuting, it still provides a pattern language of how the North Shore can densify and can connect to the regional system It is well worth a read.

Nieweler also soberly states that such a line is in the preliminary planning stages, but remember we’ve only had SkyTrain since the 1980’s. That’s less than 40 years.

“Unfortunately, I feel the congestion on the North Shore is going to get much worse over the next decade and at this rate, we’re not going to see a significant solution for 20 years maybe,” he said. “I don’t think the North Shore can wait that long. I think it’s going to be a crisis situation with the traffic if we wait that long.”

Images: Bowinn MaMLA &

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Just the very best story from Settecani  Italy where villagers in this town of 200 people had a wee surprise when they turned on their water taps~on Wednesday March 4, the local premium wine,  a sparkling Lambrusco Gasparossa flowed through the spout instead of water.

Enterprising locals in this village near Modena immediately grabbed buckets to start capturing the wine which is dry and barely sweet.  It turned out that a “defective silo” was leaking wine into the local water system. Since wine has a higher liquid pressure than water in pipes, the town’s residents truly had the best liquid on tap in their homes.

Sadly the mistake was quickly rectified, but not before litres of this well loved local wine had been procured from the taps.

While the local council apologized and ensured everyone knew there was no threat to health with the mature wine coursing through the water system, some residents responded that the problem was fixed too quickly, and wondered if the problem  could not reoccur later in the day.

And the winery? It apologized as well, reassuring residents  that there were no hygienic risks. “It is only wine that was already for bottling” the winery confirmed.

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In the last 24 years the  United States has created over 30,500 miles of road, a 42% increase in road building. Commensurate with that is congestion, which has increased by 144 % in the same time period. A new report from Smart Growth America called The Congestion Con examines American highway construction and breaks down the costs.

 “Each lane-mile of road costs between $4.2 and $15.4 million to build and another $24,000 a year to maintain. States alone spent $500 billion to expand roads between 1993 and 2017.”

Think of it~that is just the capital outlay and does not factor in pollution or the cost of crashes.  This is induced demand at its finest, with more roads and lanes appearing to speed up traffic, but just fills up with more cars. In fact a California researcher discovered that each percentage of extra road capacity created produced the same amount of miles traveled.

As more roads get built, people commute farther and the statistics in this report prove it. Since 1993, the average American driver commutes an extra four miles a day.

One way to mitigate congestion is to build transit infrastructure and to incentivize it. In Seattle bus trips grew as a percentage from 42 percent to 58 percent in seven years, with a decrease in single occupancy vehicle trips to 25 percent. Housing infill in denser neighbourhoods and cycling and walking infrastructure also aims to assist people in commuting less and more sustainably.

Despite the congestion gains found in slowing traffic, densifying downtowns and building resilient transit systems,  many transportation planners and politicians still plan roads the way they always did, thinking roads will solve congestion issues. Politicians focus on congestion  “symptoms” instead of causes.

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Since Gordon has still not called on his Price Tags satellite phone from the remote Australian outback, let’s go ahead and unpack the announcement that the Province has identified six potential new crossings from the North Shore to Vancouver.  You can read a bit of the background as well as review the six potential crossing locations in this post.

Gordon wrote a blog post four years ago that any crossing from the North Shore would be for vehicles, because that is who the voting public on the north shore was. He also pointed out that the problem with a vehicular crossing was how it would “land” on the Vancouver side, and  where the space would be for that connection and interchange. And in these times we well know what that type of property acquisition would cost.

But times change, and the new Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy is  looking at potential new town centers on the North Shore. The three communities on the North Shore  house 190,000 people in the Districts of North Vancouver and West Vancouver, and in the City of North Vancouver. Metro Vancouver is tying in with TransLink in the new regional transportation strategy in partnership with the Regional Growth Strategy for 2050, which is now in process.

This updates the Metro Vancouver plan 2040 which was adopted in 2011. The new 2050 plan outlines its mandate as “planning for a future generation”.

If you have travelled during rush hour in the North Shore, you know how frustrating it can be, and there’s been a nine percent increase in commuting according to the 2016 census. What is curious is that nearly 42 percent of people working on the North Shore come from other places in the region.Those statistics are for people with an established location of work, and does not include construction or trades workers.

A study undertaken by the Provincial government in 2014  found that congestion over the Second Narrows Bridge could be directly linked to the demolition and building permits in the three North Shore municipalities. That study includes those construction and trade workers.

Mayor Linda Buchanan of the City of North Vancouver has been leading in conversations about  town centres where people can live and work in the same community. If there are new town centers which can provide affordable housing for people, they need to be connected with good transit options. There are also several locations for town centres including Lonsdale, the Park Royal area, and the area north of the Second Narrows Bridge. Of course sustainability and sea rise will also need to be addressed in ascertaining resilient locations.

It’s the idea of new town centres with good transit that ties into some form of rapid transit connecting  to the region that is new. This is a gamechanger.

Looking at the six rapid transit options for a crossing there are a few outstanding options.

If the intent is to connect the North Shore with the region, the options of a new/existing bridge/tunnel at the Second Narrows Bridge makes sense. MLA Bowin Ma found out that it may be “technically possible to run a transit line under the existing bridge deck through the bridge’s trusses.”

If the intent is to funnel people to downtown Vancouver, then the First Narrows Bridge (tunnel crossing)  or Lonsdale (tunnel crossing) would be the options. The Lonsdale option is also the longest and most technically challenging and would be duplicating the seabus route. It would also be extremely costly.

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We half expected Gordon Price to drop everything and rush back to Vancouver to comment on the exciting announcement from the Province regarding six potential routes for a new rapid transit link joining the North Shore with downtown Vancouver.

As Simon Little with Global News writes the first part of a technical feasibility study has been prepared by Mott MacDonald Ltd. engineering  with the buy-in of the City of North Vancouver, the City of Vancouver and TransLink.

Here’s the good part~this first study examined how to connect the North Shore area with the rest of Metro Vancouver’s transit grid.  The options are:

  1. downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale via First Narrows (tunnel crossing)
  2. downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale via Brockton Point (tunnel crossing)
  3. downtown Vancouver to West Vancouver via Lonsdale (tunnel crossing)
  4. downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale via Second Narrows (new bridge crossing)
  5. Burnaby to Lonsdale via Second Narrows (new bridge crossing)
  6. Burnaby to Lonsdale via Second Narrows (existing bridge crossing)

It’s hard to believe that there has been no new fixed crossing to the North Shore since the construction of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge 60 years ago. More importantly, talking about efficient transit linkages instead of more roads for cars displays a direct interest in a more  sustainable transit dependent future .  As Mayor Linda Buchanan described …“Delivering efficient and sustainable transportation options to North Shore residents is crucial in keeping our communities vibrant and moving.”

The next phase examines and costs the options with an eventual report back on a proposed route. Meanwhile CBC’s Mensa of Municipalities Justin McElroy produced a table of engineering related infrastructure completions, and it’s interesting to see how old the links to the North Shore are, with Lions Gate built in 1938, the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in 1960, and lastly the “soft link” of the Seabus established in 1977. You can view that here.



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The Delta Police Department  with its motto “No Call Too Small” is famous in Metro Vancouver for their witty and direct approach to traffic management in their city. I have already written about their innovative use of social media to help manage safety and vehicular speed— with the ultimate goal of mitigating crashes — in their municipality.

The Delta Police Traffic Unit  directly asks the public via Twitter where speed enforcement is required. The results have been laudable with police officers attending the offending locations to enforce bylaws. They even monitor marked crosswalks to ensure that drivers yield to pedestrians.

The department has further adapted its unique communication/enforcement approach, by also giving the public a “heads up” about potential enforcement areas, also at its @DPDTraffic Twitter account. And that’s not all~they even advertise their “ticket events” at the entrances of the areas they are enforcing.

Surprisingly, drivers don’t appear to read these large reader boards.

The results have been real, and measurable, especially in high crash locations. Police say they have seen vehicular speeds slow almost to posted levels on Highway 17, as well as on streets in the city’s commercial areas.

As Delta Police Staff Sergeant Ryan Hall stated“Although Delta police and other forces occasionally publicize enforcement efforts, we don’t think any other police force in B.C. has committed to giving the public a heads up on a regular basis.” 

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If you have stayed in London for any amount of time or lived there, you may have experienced what Londoners call “London throat”, which includes mucus in the nose and illness. It turns out that vanadium, found in brake dust and in diesel exhaust contributes to “London throat” and also has an adverse impact on immunity.

The metal particles in the dust from worn-out brake pads on vehicles can be just as harmful as diesel emissions. Called BAD for Brake Dust Abrasion, studies done by King’s College London found that the metallic  dust from brake pads cause lung inflammation and “reduce immunity, increasing the risk of respiratory infections.”

As reported in the BBC the head researcher Dr. Liza Selley stated “Worryingly, this means that brake dust could be contributing to what I call ‘London throat’ – the constant froggy feeling and string of coughs and colds that city dwellers endure.”

In her research Dr. Selley found that 55% of traffic pollution is from non-exhaust particles, and 20% of that is brake dust. The dust is caused by the friction of the brake rotor grinding on the brake pads when a vehicle is braked, and the dust becomes airborne. Her research shows that the impact of this dust is just as severe as that of diesel particles. You can read Dr. Selley’s complete study here.

What this also means is that zero emission vehicles which have been vaunted as the environmental salvo to the internal combustion engines of  20th century vehicles are still going to contribute to brake dust. This speaks to doing more with less, by using public transit in cities as opposed to individual vehicles in high density areas that are subject to vehicular pollution.

It’s no surprise that the pro-automobile lobby has come out saying that all speed bumps should be removed from city streets to minimize brake dust, as reported in the Daily Telegraph.

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Gord Price will be in Australia for the next month.  Follow his coverage here and on Instagram (gordonpriceyvr).

More evidence from the Sydney Morning Herald on how deeply unserious some decision-makers can be, even after declaring a climate emergency and living through a national trauma that validates the urgency.  It is the gap between lack of action and the desire for strategic change that makes this story extraordinary.

The world’s largest coal port wants to transition away from coal – but because of government policy, can’t do it.


The world’s largest coal port State deal blocking world’s largest coal port from fossil fuel exit

The head of the world’s largest coal port says it must transition away from the fossil fuel and diversify Newcastle’s economy before it’s too late, but controversial NSW government policy is stopping it.

As the government worked to improve its climate policy following a summer of drought and bushfires, Port of Newcastle chief executive Craig Carmody said $2 billion of private investment was waiting for the green light to develop a container terminal and move the Hunter away from coal.

However, a once-secret facet of the Baird government’s 2013-14 port privatisation deal – which would force Newcastle to compensate its competitors if it transported more than 30,000 containers a year – could keep the local economy tethered to coal for decades.

Mr Carmody said the port had about 15 years to transition away from the resource, which makes up more than 95 per cent of its exports. He added that a changing climate and struggling regional sector compounded the situation.


Here’s the kicker:

“It doesn’t really matter what governments in Australia want to believe, the money we need to do what we need to do have already made their decisions,” Mr Carmody told the Herald.

“There is a reason why businesses, particularly in the energy space in Australia, are saying, ‘Well, if the government won’t provide a policy direction, then we’re going to go off and do it ourselves’.”



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