Infrastructure
November 4, 2019

Eight Lane Tunnel Approved for Massey Crossing by Metro Vancouver Board

Last week the Metro Vancouver Board met and approved the recommendation of their task force for an eight lane immersive tunnel to replace the Massey Tunnel crossing of the Fraser.  This has not been a seamless process, and as reported by Simon Little of Global News  the approval was subject to conditions.  Those conditions call for a thorough environmental impact assessment, addressing First Nations concerns regarding river habitat, and the development of a structured construction timeline for project completion in six to seven years time.

The other piece, and this is major, is conducting a full review of the traffic currently using the tunnel as well as the land-use concerns of Vancouver, Richmond and Delta. This also gives the Province and Metro Vancouver a chance to work with the Port to identify a more methodical way to schedule container trucks through the tunnel, and also consider going on a 24 hour schedule like every other major port in North America. Such scheduling would also have major implications for smarter use of the port, which is currently saying they need a new terminal without addressing the fact they are only open for business half of the day.

What also needs to be discussed is that allowing three lanes of traffic in each direction and dedicated transit lanes means that work must occur on getting more people on transit. Congestion in vehicular traffic is a good thing as it makes transit more timely and convenient in dedicated lanes. I have already written about  Marchetti’s Constant. “As travel times become shorter with more dedicated travel lanes through a new tunnel, commuters can locate farther out, with the “constant” said to be about one hour in travel time. Of course as more people locate farther away, more congestion will occur at the Massey Crossing.”

You can’t build your way out of congestion, and that will need to be emphasized in meetings with Delta, Richmond and Vancouver. This might be the time that road and congestion pricing are considered for this new Fraser River crossing.

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In September, Michael Anderson, senior researcher with Sightline Institute (Cascadia’s sustainability think tank), and Kiel Johnson, founder and operator of Portland’s Go By Bike (North America’s largest bike valet) visited Vancouver as part of a two-family touring holiday.

Anderson and Johnson rented a van to get to Vancouver because, well, kids and stuff. Plus, it was much cheaper and faster than the train. Whatever to do about that?

Gord invited the duo to write about their trip, and they did — in dialogue form.

Says Anderson: “I think we could have gone on for pages about things we saw and thought about the city, but Kiel rightly suggested keeping it pretty narrow.”

First impressions about Vancouver? How is Portland doing for cycling? What were the disappointments?

(Canadian spellings added for clarity.)

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Councillor Tony Vallente sends in this post from the City of North Vancouver, in anticipation of the new RapidBus service to Moodyville and through CNV.  Click title for helpful illustration  

As previously suggested in Dan Ross’s post More than Enough in Moodyville, a multi-year transformation is underway in the North Vancouver.  The arrival of the Marine Drive RapidBus delayed from Spring 2019 to early 2020 is very much underway.

A complete street is taking place on East 3rd Avenue in the City of North Vancouver, with space allocated for walking on sidewalks, a Mobility Lane, a dedicated bus lane (currently used as parking, all hail Shoup!), and a lane for cars.

A Mobility Lane is CNV lingo for a space that serves bikes, electric mobility devices, e-scooters, and probably other stuff we do not know will exist in the near future. (Councillors McIlroy and I passed a motion in July asking staff to prioritize segments of the City’s AAA cycling network as Mobility Lanes.)

The City of North Vancouver has been very diligent about attaining adequate space along the East 3rd corridor for years and that vision is now coming to fruition as the new Moodyville will be well served by RapidBus and also have space for alternate modes.

If the change in Moodyville to complete streets seems insufficient, look at Chesterfield at 3rd Street where a new development included a segment of off road. This is the new standard for bike routes in the City.  As more people use them with an increasingly diverse number of transportation devices, we can expect the outcry for a more complete transportation network to grow.

Transportation options in North Vancouver are beginning to be plentiful.

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I served with Don Bell on the regional district board when he was Mayor of the District of North Vancouver.  Now he’s a councillor In the City (CNV), and one of the longest serving local leaders in Metro.

So yeah, he’s an old white guy who’s been around a long time.  How does he stay relevant?

Like this:

Don Bell bought an e-scooter/bike.

Cllr Tony Vallente took this shot at the opening of Reckless Shipyards, where two modes – scooters and cycles – are hybridizing.

I always thought of Don as a windshield politician.  A car windshield.  Everything he saw on the other side was designed to assist the way he was moving, from the engineering of the road to the size of the parking lot.  All the houses and apartment buildings, the shops and offices, the warehouses and whatever – everything based on the assumption that almost everyone drove, almost everywhere, almost all the time.

Don’s world.  Where the car is a member of the family.

That was the District Don was mayor of. But it’s not the City he represents now – the city that has embraced urbanism, that believes in the regional vision – of dense, mixed-use centres, connected by good transit.  Like Lower Lonsdale.  And now Upper Lonsdale.

The Council has, by fits and starts, agreed to get denser and different.  To not be as car dependent.  North Vancouver isn’t just suburbia.  Nor is Don now just a driver.

Now he’s bought an e-scooter.  Seeing without a windshield the community he helps shape.

 

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Motordom 1.0 is the impact on cities of rail and streetcar technology – the DNA of Vancouver.  Motordom 2.0 is domination by the vehicle, and the design of post-war urban regions.  Motordom 3.0 is the reaction and the reshaping of cities to accommodate more transport choices, including walking and cycling – Vancouverism for transportation.

Motordom 4.0 is the era we are entering: transportation impacted by information technologies.  Ride-sharing and hailing, for instance.  Since transport and land-use are intimately connected, one affecting the other, we should expect that urban spaces will become contested spaces.

And sure enough …

… to deliver Amazon orders and countless others from businesses that sell over the internet, the very fabric of major urban areas around the world is being transformed. And New York City, where more than 1.5 million packages are delivered daily, shows the impact that this push for convenience is having on gridlock, roadway safety and pollution. …

The immense changes in New York have been driven by tech giants, other private businesses and, increasingly, by independent couriers, often without the city’s involvement, oversight or even its awareness …  And it could be just the beginning. Just 10 percent of all retail transactions in the United States during the first quarter of 2019 were made online, up from 4 percent a decade ago, according to the Census Bureau. …

“In this period of tremendous growth in the city’s population, jobs, tourism and e-commerce, our congested streets are seeing ever more trucks,” said Polly Trottenberg, the city’s transportation commissioner. “The city is experimenting with enforcement and creative curb management initiatives to address this growing challenge.” …

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Imagine the Netherlands in the 1960’s. It is a place where traffic and automobiles have become ubiquitous in the post war era. Where to look for inspiration on how to move more people more efficiently? The United States. Specifically American David Jokinen, an engineer who had the Big Idea to create bigger highways between cities and suburbs was hired.

In 1962 and in 1967 Jokinen created two traffic plans for The Hague and for Amsterdam respectively. In Amsterdam part  of the plan was also for new metro lines  to be constructed, demolishing housing in the Niewmarkt neighbourhood. Locals tried to stop the buildings from being demolished, resulting in the Niewmarkt riot. While the housing was lost, the expansion of the metro was halted, meaning that the centre of Amsterdam was kept intact.

While Jokinen’s plans were not implemented in the Hague,  he received funding from the Stichting Weg automobile lobby in Amsterdam, whose sole purpose was to create better access by car.  Jokinen was going to create a six lane highway and demolish several Amsterdam neighbourhoods,  with a highway  serving the city’s downtown to facilitate access to work by car.

Remember this is the time of Disneyland~Jokinen wanted monorails that allowed access from parking garages at the city’s periphery into the downtown. In many accounts, Jokinen’s concepts are compared to that of Robert Moses who was shaping New York City in a similar car oriented way. It’s also similar to the plan announced in 1967 for Vancouver  which  proposed replacing the inner city neighbourhoods of Strathcona and Chinatown with elevated highways and an “LA-style cloverleaf interchange.”

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In early October the task force set up by the Metro Vancouver mayors came to a consensus and decided that an eight lane immersive tunnel would be the agreed upon option to replace the aging Massey Tunnel. The existing four lane Massey Tunnel still has another fifty years of service, but if used for transit would need seismic work for a one-in -475 year seismic event, and flood protection at entrances. Since these upgrades would be substantial, the task force examined five options, choosing the eight-lane tunnel. Two of the lanes of the tunnel would be dedicated for transit.

The Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council will now review the report and the decision of the task force, and forward their recommendation to the Province. Under the previous Liberal government, the Province had more of a quick and dirty approach which favoured an expansive and overbuilt ten lane bridge with all the requisite overpasses and land usurping ramps. Using the immersive tunnel  technology allows for slope grades  that would allow transit lanes to be converted to rail in the future. While cost estimates were not discussed, it is suggested that the cost of this option is similar to building a bridge. Environmental impacts would result from excavating both river banks, as well as mitigating  damage to existing fish habitats. You can take a look at the report of  the Massey Crossing Task Force here.

While a smaller crossing  at the existing Massey Tunnel with a separate crossing of the Fraser River that aligned up to truck routes for Vancouver  port bound traffic may have made more sense, it appears that cost was a factor in the choice of one bigger tunnel. The fact that this proposed tunnel is being located on sensitive river delta that will be prone to future flooding also needs to be addressed.

This time the Province under the NDP government asked the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council to come to a consensus of what type of crossing would replace the existing Massey Tunnel. Of course a complete environmental assessment will also be necessary, expected to take a year to produce.

There’s no surprise that critics are decrying the fact that the previous Liberal provincial government’s massive bridge will not be built, throwing their hands up about the fact this could have been built faster. But while the previously proposed overbuilt bridge may have proceeded faster, the previous government had no plan on how to manage congestion on either side of the bridge. They never addressed the fact that traffic heading to Vancouver had to throat down to the two lane Oak Street Bridge. It was in many ways a pet project to produce jobs and votes, but did not have the supportive infrastructure to move increased projected traffic anywhere. It was also not supported by the Mayors’ Council with the exception of the Mayor of Delta who has been an outlier and port trucking traffic booster.

And that brings up the concept of induced demand. As described in this City Lab article,  induced demand “refers to the idea that increasing roadway capacity encourages people to drive, thus failing to improve congestion”. 

There is also “Marchetti’s Constant” .

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It’s hard to believe in this time of technology that we still require police officers to be vulnerable road users outside of their vehicles to flag over motorists for speed  transgressions on Canadian highways. Not only are they subject to being crashed into by the vehicle they are flagging down, they also may be hit by other  inattentive motorists.

I have written about how Switzerland has become the safest country in Europe on the roads by  regulating speed limits. In five years from 2001 to 2006 Swiss speed camera enforcement resulted in a fatality decrease of 15 percent per year, bringing road deaths from 71 annually down to 31. No need to have police flagging you down on the autoroute, a $330  ticket for driving 16 kilometres an hour over the speed limit  is in the mail.

The maximum travel speed is 120 km/h and it is rigidly enforced, making Swiss motorways the safest according to the European Transport Safety Council. Managing speed makes the roads easier to drive on, with consistent motorist behaviour and plenty of reaction time due to highway speed conformity.

A poll conducted by Mario Canseco  last year shows that 70 percent of  people in British Columbia are now supportive of the use of a camera system similar to the Swiss to enforce road speed limits in this province. While the Province has located 140 red light camera at intersections with high collision statistics, speed on highways does not have similar technology.

On the Thanksgiving weekend police forces across British Columbia announced a drive safely campaign, notifying that they would be out on highways  looking for anything that took away from safe highway driving. Anyone driving on highways from Abbotsford to Vancouver quickly saw the difference, with motorists staying to posted speed limits on highways.

But last month one  Delta Police Force member was nearly struck by a vehicle driver that was weaving in and out of traffic along a busy section of highway as the officer was outside of his vehicle attending to another stopped car.  That officer was nearly clipped and this was caught on a dash camera.

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We’ve all seen them~those lovely rainbow crosswalks in cities that represent inclusivity and are often tied into  events celebrating gay, nonbinary and transgender people. Those crosswalks also just make people happy. In Peace River Alberta which has the most northern Pride Parade the city decided to paint a signalled pedestrian crosswalk in rainbow colours after examining the experience of rainbow crosswalks in Edmonton. In Edmonton’s pilot project summary  the city found that

the rainbow crosswalks did not decrease pedestrian safety. Stopping and encroaching behaviour differed at locations with and without the rainbow crosswalks. The observed motorist behaviour was consistent with the survey findings where people felt the rainbow crosswalks made intersections safer and were not a distraction.”

After over two months of observation and a survey of 3200 people, Edmonton found that motorists who drove through the rainbow crosswalks did not find them distracting. Based upon that information, Peace River painted up their own.  The city’s engineer found that the painting of crosswalks did conform to the Highway Marking Guide and to the Transportation Association of Canada standards.

But in the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department the town of  Ames Iowa (population of 65,000) received a letter from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) saying that  the rainbow crosswalk in that city was a “safety concern, and a liability for the city”.  In the United States the FHA regulates national roadway signs and traffic signals. The letter wanted the City of Ames to remove their rainbow sidewalks.

The Ames City Council ignored the letter (by unanimous consent) after hearing the city’s lawyer respond : “Honestly, I just do not think they  (the FHA) have any jurisdiction over the roads in the city that we’re paying for with our own tax money,”

There is absolutely no reason NOT to have colourful crosswalks in any design. New York City, Seattle and Portland Oregon all have colourful crosswalks and they have not caused driver distraction or resulted in an increase of vehicular crashes. As the New York Times reports the FHA told the City of Ames that painted crosswalks:

diminishes the contrast between the white lines and the pavement, potentially decreasing the effectiveness of the crosswalk markings and the safety of pedestrian traffic. The purpose of aesthetic treatments and crosswalk art is to ‘draw the eye’ of pedestrians and drivers in direct conflict with commanding the attention of drivers and motorists to minimize the risk of collision.”

There’s no data to this odd governmental critique of a city’s colourful crosswalks, and the way it is written talks more about a bureaucrat’s pet peeve, not any actual impediment to pedestrian or vehicular behaviour.

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Image: Carscoops.com

It was only a few years ago when semi autonomous vehicles were the shiny pennies pledging to undertake all the  pesky logistics of driving. But as reported in The Verge.com things are not quite as touted, even with the Automatic Emergency Braking Systems. These vehicles are testing out as unconscious killers of vulnerable road users, who are being slaughtered at an increasing rate on roads in North America.

The most important aspect for any vehicle on the road is the ability to recognize and avoid vulnerable road users, those pedestrians, cyclists and other wheelers that are using the street without the protection of a vehicular steel shell.

It appears that while car companies fill their vehicles with toys (I have already written about the huge dashboard reader screens) the technology is still not reliable to keep everyone safe on the road. That’s the nice way of saying that today’s semi autonomous vehicles are murderous for other road users despite the fact that they have been portrayed as being logically smarter and safer than human drivers.

This report by the American Automobile Association (AAA) looked at the automatic braking systems of semi autonomous vehicles from different makers when confronted with a pedestrian (thankfully they used mannequins).  Four different 2019 model vehicles were used~a Chevy Malibu, Honda Accord, Tesla Model 3, and Toyota Camry.

Unbelievably  the vehicles hit the dummy pedestrians a horrifying sixty percent of the time-“and this was in daylight hours at speeds of 20 mph/30 km/h”. When child sized dummy pedestrians were used on the roadway, they were hit eighty percent of the time, 89 percent  of the time if between cars.These findings also occurred at higher speeds and at night.

Pedestrian fatalities were even worse if the victim had their back towards vehicles. The Truth About Cars writes “The researchers tested several other scenarios, including encountering a pedestrian after a right-hand turn and two adults standing alongside the road with their backs to traffic. The latter scenario resulted in a collision 80 percent of the time, while the former yielded a 100 percent collision rate.”

Thankfully in their conclusions  of the study AAA states that the high-tech detection systems are inadequate, with none of the various vehicles tested being able to detect an adult walking on the roadway at night. Only one vehicle was able to detect that an object was even in front of the car, but it still did not brake.

As Allison Arieff writes in the New York Times –while over 80 billion dollars has been spent in the last five years on “smart” or connected cars and AVs supposedly to make them safer, “investing in the car of the future is investing in the wrong problem. We need to be thinking about how we can create a world with fewer cars.”

In 2018 6,227 pedestrians (that’s the population of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia)  were killed in the United States.That’ is an increase of 4 percent from 2017. Canada is also in the club, being one of only seven industrialized nations in the world where pedestrian deaths are increasing.

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