Besides the media flurry on the new Liberal leader of the Ten Lane Massey Bridge party, there has been discouraging information coming out about ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. This is a provincial Crown corporation established in 1973 to provide universal auto insurance to motorists in this province. It was cutting edge at the time, and responsible for driver and vehicle licensing and registration.
Unfortunately it also appears that some of its profits did not stay with the Corporation, and you can find out more about its governance here. There’s been some finger-pointing on how these losses happened, and a suggestion of limiting the awards of some injuries to mitigate these losses. But a retired Police Chief for the City of Delta Jim Cessford has come up with a proposal to save lives and to save money for the Crown Corporation~bring back photo radar. Why? Because when people know they are being watched, they drive more carefully. “We had it in Edmonton when I was with Edmonton Police. And we found that there was a dramatic decrease in the number of collisions, as a result of photo radar. I know that there’s this whole notion that ‘It’s cash grab.’ Well, that’s true. Obviously, there are funds that are realized as a result of photo radar. That’s a side issue. The real issue is saving lives and we believe that photo radar did save lives.”
British Columbia did have photo radar which was implemented by the provincial NDP government in 1996. It generated 2.3 million dollars in the year 2000. In 2001 the incoming provincial Liberal government did away with photo radar, instead saying they would rely on traditional policing methods. At the time it was estimated to cost the government 6 million dollars to phase out the program.
Attorney General David Eby has also suggested that red light cameras be set up across the province. But if lowering speeds means that lives are saved, shouldn’t photo radar be considered too? A study on the Economic Impacts of Photo Radar in British Columbia undertaken in 2006 revealed “an annual net benefit of approximately 114 million in year 2001 Canadian dollars to British Columbians. The study also finds a net annual saving of over 38 million Canadian dollars for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) that funded the program..Automated photo radar traffic safety enforcement can be an effective and efficient means to manage traffic speed, reduce collisions and injuries, and combat the huge resulting economic burden to society… Every effort should be made to focus on and to promote the program on safety improvement grounds. The program can be easily terminated because of political considerations, if the public perceives it as a cash cow to enhance government revenue.”
There has been a lot of back and forth about industrial development in Delta. There is the MLA for Delta South who is still double dipping as a member of Delta Council. He’s insisting he represents farm interests but in the same breath advocates single mindedly for an overbuilt multi billion dollar ten lane bridge to replace the Massey tunnel. Such a bridge would further industrialize that part of the Fraser River and ensure adjoining lands are permanently removed from any future agricultural consideration. And then there’s Ivanhoe Cambridge, the real estate arm of a Quebec pension fund who have developed a whopping 1.2 million square foot mall with 6,000 parking spaces on what was the most arable Class 1 farmland in Canada, land that is controlled by the Tsawwassen First Nation.
It is refreshing to hear from someone who is not trying to facilitate the paving over of prime agricultural lands for industry with things like an $18 million dollar parking lot for port bound trucks and port expansion. As the Vancouver Sun’s Larry Pynn writes there are people who are very concerned about the loss of “prime” (the best in Canada) farmland in South Delta. As farmer Rod Swenson states ““Delta is just getting hacked and torn apart by everything — roads, industry and the First Nations treaty.”
The map above shows Brunswick Point north of Deltaport which has 250 hectares of potentially arable lands. Four families farm this area under provincial Crown leases that are due to expire. Mr. Swenson would like to see the lands designated in perpetuity for agriculture and wildlife. This area of Delta is on one of the big migratory flightways on the continent.
Without this designation, this land could be developed for industry through the Tsawwassen First Nation which has the first right of refusal.Even though this land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, the First Nations do not need to abide by that designation should they control the land. The Tsawwassen First Nations have already extensively developed their lands for two large shopping malls, housing and industrial warehouses related to the port.
Here is where it gets sticky~how important is agricultural land? Will new farming techniques mean that this land can be more intensively used in the future? And should the Province be keeping this land as agricultural for future generations? The trail along the Brunswick Point dike is also a birdwatching area where the spring migration of hundreds of thousands of western sandpipers can be viewed. Is this a resource that should be protected? Or should the local industrial based economy take precedence?
You would think that a large metropolitan region like Metro Vancouver would have a good relationship with the Provincial government and it would be in everyone’s interest to promote good thoughtful transportation across this region. That has not been in the case in the past, where an overbuilt ten lane bridge was being planned on the unique and sensitive Fraser River delta which also holds the most arable soils in Canada. Quite simply, the building of this bridge would solve “congestion” experienced going through the current George Massey Tunnel, but would move that “congestion” along to other parts of the same system, especially towards Richmond and Vancouver. What this bridge would do is reinforce the 20th century notion of the region’s future growth as being dependent on truck traffic from the Port Metro Vancouver’s Deltaport, and would increase the industrialization of the banks of the Fraser River. Unlike every other port in North America, Port Metro Vancouver does not operate 24 hours a day, and truck traffic is not restricted through the tunnel at peak times. And when a large truck stalls in the tunnel during rush hours, there’s a huge delay, especially if specialized tow equipment needs to be brought in.
CBC reports that the Provincial government is putting the Massey Bridge on hold, and “launching an independent technical review to explore best options going forward.” The current procurement process for building the bridge has also been cancelled. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena states “”We want to look at the different options. There was a sense that not all options were thoroughly examined.”
And here is the best part-in terms of Massey Crossing options, “We want one that will get the approval of not just the engineers, but people who live and work in the region.”
This major rethink on the tunnel replacement was not in the NDP’s campaign prior to the provincial election, but does recognize the importance of working with the region, not just industrial and commercial interests on regional transportation infrastructure. Working together and ensuring all interests are represented enables everyone to move towards good connected regional transportation.
Lots of coverage in the past few days on the removal of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges, plus the implications for mobility pricing. Here are my thoughts as reported in various media:
From the Vancouver Sun:
By removing tolls, more people may choose to drive
British Columbia’s new NDP government will scrap tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges on Sept. 1, but motorists should enjoy the free ride while it lasts.
That’s because a commission is investigating mobility pricing options for transportation, which could include bridge tolls and other road usage fees.
The NDP government is now championing the phrase “Toll Free B.C.” — and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena denied in an interview Friday that this slogan would be temporary given the work of the mobility commission. “What the mayors are looking at is mobility pricing, which is not tolling. It is looking at how people move,” she told Postmedia News.
But Gordon Price, an expert on all things urban, said the reality is that motorists will, of course, be paying for road infrastructure again under any mobility pricing system. A new system would likely look very different, though, and could be more equitable than merely taxing bridge users south of the Fraser Valley.
There are also other inequities in the local transportation system, Price noted, such as paying for ferries and transit. “Is a Compass Card really different from a TReO card?” asked Price, a former Vancouver city councillor and former director of the Simon Fraser University City Program.
The key will be to find a solution that doesn’t politically alienate drivers (a.k.a. voters), who have come to expect that roads are an essential service funded by governments. “We have been raised on the free road. It is called a ‘freeway’ for a reason,” Price quipped
Does loss of Lower Mainland bridge toll revenue pave way for mobility pricing?
Gordon Price, a fellow with the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, says mobility pricing has evolved beyond tolls.
“Bridge tolls are very 20th century,” he said, adding that having tolls connected to a particular infrastructure piece is an outdated system.
“More and more we’re going to be thinking about transportation as a range of choices, and yes at this point you’ll individually pay for them [whether] it’s a bike share, car share, car rental, car use, taxis, transit,” he said.
He says governments could find ways to offer transportation services to commuters that would bring in tax revenue and cover maintenance costs as well.
“If I can buy a monthly service, that will give me all of these choices in one integrated package, very simple, seamless pricing, that’s very desirable.”
By removing tolls, more people may choose to drive
LOWER MAINLAND (NEWS 1130) – The province’s move to scrap tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges will change your commute. But it’s still unclear what it will mean for traffic flows and volumes in our region.
By removing the tolls, Gord Price with SFU’s City Program believes more people will choose to drive.
“If you build an urban region that’s designed for the car, you get more cars,” says Price. “If you build it around transit, Vancouver an example built around the electric streetcar back in the day, still functions pretty well with a more balanced system.”
So while in the short term congestion may drop at the Pattullo and Alex Fraser bridges, the increased overall traffic could create new choke points.
“The idea of having a free road just encourages more traffic,” says Price. “Eventually there is some kind of congestion point, whether it’s the kind of mass congestion that occurs at rush hour, or it moves the traffic further along to the next congestion point.”
Price also believes this move will lead to more people moving to the suburbs now that they won’t have to pay the toll.
Back to the south side of the Fraser River where there is now a meaty discussion occurring about the Massey Tunnel replacement, and questions arising on how to manage “congestion” in the tunnel prior to any new tunnel replacement. A robust commenter in the Delta Optimist points out that they “regularly use the tunnel in both directions at various times of the day and am never delayed more than a few seconds. Most of the time I barely have to slow down before heading into the tunnel.”How? This individual travels by “motorcycle, taking the #601 bus (public transit is a wonderful thing) or driving with one or more companions. That means I get to use the HOV lane, travel at reasonable speed and merge seamlessly into traffic heading under the river. In case you are not familiar with the term, HOV stands for “high occupancy vehicle.”
HOV was introduced in Canada in Metro Vancouver and Toronto in the early 1990s. In 2010 there were 150 kilometers of HOV lanes in Canada, with 130 kilometers of arterial HOV lanes. They are a great invention and are underused in the Massey Tunnel context. As the Delta Optimist writer states: It is true that during rush hours one can’t help but notice a significant back-up of cars and trucks not using the HOV lane. That is because they are what you might call “low occupancy vehicles” – one person taking up an inordinate amount of road space and burning an unconscionable amount of climate-destroying fossil fuel. This is exactly what we need to discourage: the most inefficient form of human transportation ever created. First, by not facilitating it with irresponsible highway and bridge expansion and secondly by creating efficient and user-friendly public transit alternatives.”
Instead of the Corporation of Delta continues their campaign for a new bridge with no support from other Mayors or the Metro Vancouver region, they could be encouraging and organizing ride share for their citizens, and running campaigns to increase bus usage. This way the municipality could decrease tunnel congestion by promoting ways to have fewer vehicles through the tunnel, and could actively encourage that large truck traffic not use the tunnel during “peak times”. One simple solution is to run Port Metro Vancouver’s port 24 hours a day like every port in North America to alleviate truck and tunnel congestion, and limit trucks in the tunnel at peak hours.
Planetizen writer James Brasuel reviews the futility of widening freeways to lessen congestion, and this also applies to the proposed ten lane Massey Bridge- “the idea of widening freeways to lessen congestion has been “thoroughly debunked…[e]conomists now talk about the ‘Fundamental Law of Road Congestion’–each incremental increase in highway capacity generates a proportionate increase in traffic, with the effect that congestion quickly rebounds to previous levels–accompanied by more sprawl, longer trips and increased pollution.”
You can’t build your way out of congestion. As Lewis Mumford said, ‘No one, it seems pays heed to our own grim experience, which is that the more facilities that are provided for the motor car, the more cars appear”. And that was written 64 years ago.
Here’s Andrew Weaver’s release on today’s announcement:
Weaver statement on government’s decision to remove bridge tolls
VICTORIA, BC – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green caucus, issued the following statement today in response to the government’s removal of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges.
“It’s unfortunate that the government has decided to proceed with this reckless policy,” said Weaver.
“There is no question that the affordability crisis facing so many British Columbians is a significant concern. However, this policy is high cost and low impact. There are lots of good, high return-on-investments decisions that government can make, such as education, student housing and child care. It is disappointing that the first major measure that this government has taken to make life more affordable for British Columbians will add billions of dollars to taxpayer-supported debt. Moreover, making such a massive addition to our debt risks raising interest on all debt, which ultimately prevents government from being able to invest more in important social programs.
“Tolls are an excellent policy tool to manage transport demand. Transport demand management reduces pollution and emissions, alleviates congestion and helps pay for costly infrastructure. That’s why, at the negotiating table when preparing our Confidence and Supply Agreement, we ensured that a commitment was included to work with the Mayors’ Council consultation process to find a more fair and equitable way of funding transit for the long-term. We look forward to that commitment being met so that British Columbians can have an evidence-based, truly fair approach to this file.”
As one commentator noted, the NDP may well have won the election as a consequence of their promise to remove tolls on the Port Mann. It may have secured the needed ridings, particularly South of the Fraser.
But Weaver’s points are good – and deserving of a major policy debate in the House, particularly with respect to the implications for future decisions on road pricing.
“The B.C. government is getting rid of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges starting Sept. 1, Premier John Horgan has announced.”
The Premier and assorted ministers articulated the reasons they’re getting rid of tolls – effectively on all existing and new road-and-bridge projects:
- Reduce costs for drivers
- Reduce congestion
- Reduce impediments to movement across the region
You can do one or two of those goals; you can’t, over time, do them all. Less visible cost per trip, the more incentive to drive. The more incentive to drive, the greater the likelihood of congestion. And hence more impediment to movement – unless, of course, the belief is that we’ll build and widen more bridges and roads, which will all be ‘free’, thus continuing the fruitless cycle.
Three other impacts:
- This is the end of the public-private partnership for funding infrastructure that requires a cash flow generated by the infrastructure funded. (In other words, a perpetual money-machine, where debt to build infrastructure created more cash flow to generate more debt to build more infrastructure.)
- Good luck to the ‘Mobility Pricing Independent Commission’ set up by the Mayors’ Council to explore the feasibility of road pricing. The NDP decision today reinforces the notion that no senior government will accept a proposal that would require them to spend political capital to impose a visible charge on road users.
- Though the government didn’t say so, I’m sure one of their goals would be to reduce sprawl in the Lower Mainland. But as of today, that goal not only got so much harder, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an uptick in housing costs east of the Port Mann.
Back the south of the Fraser River where the Corporation of Delta continues the sound of one set of hands clapping for a bridge while the rest of the regions’ mayors and Metro Vancouver ask for a rethink of the current Massey Tunnel and a review of where the transportation priorities of this region really are.
It was one thing to set up a reader board at the Massey Tunnel that reads that “WE NEED A BRIDGE” and that asks people to go to a “WE NEED A BRIDGE” website which magically just goes to the Corporation of Delta’s website. It’s another thing to actually post a video that contains all the one sided arguments for a ten lane bridge projected to cost nearly 4 billion dollars (carrying costs way exceed this amount) that was originally put forward and projected by the previous Provincial liberal government. Surprisingly there is an image of trees, people walking and a wheelchair in the video suggesting that everyone will be able to access this bridge by walking or biking.
The arguments trotted out in the video are the same-old-accidents, congestion, potential of an earthquake, and the fact that despite what outside experts are saying, the ten lane bridge is actually more sustainable and better for the environment than the tunnel. No mention of the degradation and industralization of the banks of the Fraser River, the taking of substantial arable farmland, or the fact this bridge is based upon a 20th century view of motordom and single occupancy cars.
Nothing new here, except the marked inability to view the whole comprehensive transportation and transit picture of the region which does not just include this one sided view. Let’s hope for a more realistic examination by the Province very soon. Surely there is a reason that the rest of the region and Metro Vancouver has asked for a solid review of all materials and a rethink.
In the same way that on-line shopping trends and changing retail tastes are taking a bite out of the stand-alone shopping mall, there are other industries that will be similarly impacted-most notably for Metro Vancouver, the Port of Vancouver’s shipping. As reported in Business in Vancouver grain shipments and containerized cargo has had an increase of four per cent versus the same period of time last year, but the way cargo is managed is drastically morphing.
The challenge for the Port and other ports in North America is the tremendous sea change in how global freight is moved, and also how that freight is handled. “In its 2017 Port, Airport and Global Infrastructure seaport outlook for North America, real estate and investment management firm Jones Lang Lasalle lists five trends to watch in the freight and logistics services arena. Among the five are bigger ships and bigger shipping line alliances. Both will place enormous pressure on port cargo efficiency and infrastructure because they will concentrate the number of container ship dockings in larger vessels at fewer ports.”
This is going to require efficient loading and distribution centres, which means more industrial land beside the port for distribution centres, similar to the logistics centre on the Tsawwassen First Nations land besides Delta port. Metro Vancouver’s very low vacancy rate of 2.7 per cent for industrial land has meant that commercial real estate groups are looking longingly at land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) as the way to procure property for distribution centres. The Port of Vancouver has also been optioning agricultural land in the ALR for potential industrial expansion, using senior government status to option agricultural land at values far more than property owners can achieve selling for agricultural use. And the Port is not looking for a tiny bit of agricultural turf-as previously reported in the Vancouver Sun Port Metro Vancouver’s land use plan is looking for 930 hectares of space, “more than 10 times what the port now has in reserve.”
The Port already owns about 1,457 hectares of land of which only about 81 acres, the Gilmore Farm in Richmond is undeveloped. While the Port is renewing its farming leases on the land, the City of Richmond worries that this agricultural land will soon be transferred into Port industrial usage.
It’s an interesting conundrum-how do you maintain access to the most arable farmland in Canada and make it so that farmers can own it and farm it? How do you restrain McMansions from usurping this land as private estates? And how do you address the fact that the Port can claim “higher authority” as a federal governmental body and pay off agricultural land owners with much higher values than that received on the farm land market? And is the insatiable appetite of the port for stockpiling goods and distributing them going to remain the same in a time of e-commerce and disruptive technology?
Port Metro Vancouver’s CEO has said “Without suitable land, we will not be able to deliver economic growth to support the growing population. And without careful planning, we will not be able to make best use of the land we manage.”
Vancouver Sun Image
From CBC via Price Tags Editor Ken Ohrn is the notification that “four of the five members of the Transportation Investment Corporation board, which oversees B.C.’s Port Mann Bridge, have been removed by the provincial government.”
That’s right- “In an Order In Council formally approved on Friday, chair Daniel Doyle and directors Anne Stewart, Clifford Neufeld and former finance minister Colin Hansen had their appointments rescinded.” One person remains, Irene Kerr who is the CEO of TI Corp and will be on the board until the end of 2018. TI Corp is the governmental creation that managed the construction of the bridge and the subsequent tolling on this and the Golden Ears Bridge.
While the Port Mann is not making money as projected from tolls, it is still projected to pay for itself . The 2017 B.C. budget suggested that losses of $88 million dollars in 2017 and $90 million dollars in 2018 are expected. The TI Corp was also to provide “support” for the implementation of the ‘George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project-when will he NDP government be announcing what they are doing with that vast overbuilt project?
Meanwhile south of the Fraser City of Richmond Councillor Carol Day supports the transit idea of the Mayor of Delta who was pleading for a ten lane bridge, and for a rapid transit connection to get that bridge. Councillor Day calls the refusal of the Mayors’ Council to consider rapid transit to Delta the “special sort of short sightedness that is iconic of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. This creates a piecemeal approach to infrastructure that approves individual projects in isolation of one another without sufficient consideration of the future.”
Councillor Day further notes: “Mayor Jackson is absolutely right in saying that we have to think about building capacity for 75 years into the future rather than merely extending existing transit lines. We will be able to plan out a much more efficient transit network if all current and potential projects support each other and a unified vision.”
It is going to be an interesting time as the new Provincial government reviews and unravels the truths and myths about the Massey Tunnel crossing, and evaluates what will work best for the Fraser River crossing in Delta-where, how, and why.
Richmond News Image