Motordom
September 20, 2017

Go Gambling Beside the Massey Tunnel!


One more  reason for the Mayor of the Corporation of Delta supporting the Massey Bridge, despite all the other Mayors in Metro Vancouver nixing the project-Delta is getting a new casino! Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about the casino debacle in Delta . This new addition will be located directly east of the  Massey Tunnel on the Delta Town and Country Inn site. The British Columbia Licensing Commission (the BCLC)   apparently made the decision “after listening to the community and the clear feedback from the Corporation of Delta that the only suitable site on which it would consider a gambling and entertainment facility at this time is the Delta Town and Country Inn.”
The commission hired a third-party consultant that “undertook a detailed analysis of this location utilizing existing player data. This analysis shows that the Delta Town and Country Inn site will capture incremental revenue, with minimal impacts to adjacent gambling facilities in Richmond, Surrey and New Westminster.” 
So why is this detrimental? As the Atlantic magazine notes, a  Canadian study found that the  75 per cent of  casino customers who gamble casually only provide 4 per cent of revenues. “A range of studies reviewed…estimated that between 40 to 60 per cent of casino revenues are earned from problem gamblers…drawn from the ranks of the vulnerable elderly.Half of casino visitors are over age 50, but casinos market themselves to the over 70 and even over 80 market, to whom gambling offers an escape from boredom and loneliness into a hypnotic zone of rapid-fire electronic stimuli.”  With more than 15 per cent of the population in Delta over 65 years of age, the new casino will have a captive market driving to the casino’s  motordom location.
Meanwhile the Richmond News reports about a theatre group that performs theatrical plays for seniors  in Richmond with only one theme-the deleterious impact of gambling. Supported by the “community engagement provider” of the B.C. Responsible and Problem Gambling Program, the plays aim to warn vulnerable and lonely seniors about the danger of gambling.
“We came up with the idea five years ago to deliver meaningful messages to the public, especially seniors, through drama. We found that seniors often have a shorter attention span, so traditional methods like lectures are not very effective on them…Things that happen to older adults might make them a vulnerable group, like retirement from work and bereavement. Also, they have access to pensions and savings, and gambling might be an attractive source of recreation for them.”
The Licensing Commission continues with the party line. “BCLC respects the authority of local governments to choose whether they want a gambling facility in their community. Throughout this process, BCLC is committed to engaging with stakeholders and the public to incorporate their feedback into these plans.” 
Delta gets another industry that is not 21st century focused, and certainly not sustainable in any way other than the 10 per cent revenues the Corporation will receive, which will be in the 1.5 to 3 million dollar range. All of this for a business that is all-consuming and only spits out their customers once they have no money.

 
 

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In truly one of the most bizarre events south of the Fraser River, the  Mayor  of the Corporation of Delta was invited to speak to the Surrey Board of Trade as part of their 2017 Surrey Environment and Business Awards. Subject?  Why the business community must force the Provincial government build a ten lane overbuilt multi-billion dollar bridge which will industrialize the banks of the  Fraser River. No mention that most of Delta’s economy is based upon trucking and transshipment, with no diversity into more 21st century businesses. Delta needs the bridge to continue their industrial economic base which is all about motordom.
As quoted in the Delta Optimist “The impacts are not just felt in Delta, but in Surrey, White Rock, Langley, even out in the valley. The replacement of the tunnel with a new bridge will relieve on of the worst traffic highway bottlenecks in Canada and save businesses and commuters millions of dollars lost as a result of congestion, accidents and travel delays” the Mayor said.
To the Surrey business community that might not know that you cannot build a ten lane bridge to solve congestion, the Mayor had an enthusiastic audience. The Mayor also trotted out the  Angus Reid survey that showed that the business community and residents supported the bridge. Without comprehensive road widening and new bridges at Oak Street, congestion at the bridge will simply transfer to other areas of Highway 99.
The clearest statement comes from the new  Provincial Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena who stated  We have talked to mayors who were very concerned that their vision for the Lower Mainland was not being recognized. As minister I think this is a responsible way to be acting when you are talking what will be, no matter what we do, whether it is a bridge, whether it is twinning the tunnel or tunnel and bridge combination, who knows what will come of this, but we are responsible with public money. We want to get this right.”

 
 

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You can feel the desperation of the Liberal party in this latest incident-someone in the defeated Liberal provincial party came up with  a crumpled document  that they are sure is from the NDP camp before the Provincial election. Even though it is not on letterhead, or has any identifying signatures or references, the opposition party has pounced on it to try to make a news story. Their story? That the NDP planned to implement the Transportation Plan as approved by the Mayors’ Council  which does not include the Massey Bridge.
This of course gives the rookie Delta MLA (who has also not given up his Councillor job in Delta) the chance to rail on about congestion in the tunnel and all those folks inconvenienced by using the tunnel, which of course is all the fault of a new government. The multi billion dollar cost of this proposed bridge is more than the cost of NASA’s Cassini project, which is now sending its last photos from space.
And as the Delta Optimist observed, “The document does not appear to be official, nor confirmed party policy. However, that didn’t stop the Liberals from accusing the government of quietly planning to kill the $3.5 billion project right off the bat despite assurances from Transportation Minister Claire Trevena”.
And the rookie MLA doing the dual job as Delta councillor continues the same rant against any reasonable evaluation of the bridge, and has not demonstrated any ability to work towards the mutual interests of the region, as expressed by the Transportation Plan approved by the metro Mayors’ Council. If anything instead of getting a reasoned rationale approach to working towards mutual interests, this MLA is distancing Delta from the rest of the region in his dual roles.
Expect to see more of this posturing, so reminiscent of the way the last Provincial government treated Metro Vancouver. Here’s to a more rationale, interest based approach that would be helpful to explore the issues and ensure that transportation concerns for the Delta part of the region are addressed.

 
 

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Price Tags Vancouver reported yesterday about the dual mandate or double jobbing of the new Rookie MLA from Delta who was also keeping his Councillor seat at the Corporation of Delta. As reported in Price Tags this has raised some Delta taxpayer eyebrows, folks that would like to see a separation between the Province and the municipality, and were also looking forward to some fresh thinking in a burb that needs some new ideas on communities, sustainable economy and industry diversification.
Immediately the same afternoon The Delta Optimist wrote that the new MLA Ian Paton, a stalwart supporter the Massey Bridge was also keeping his council seat to prevent an election. Yes you read that right. This has nothing to do with democracy-“Mayor Lois Jackson said by not having a by-election to fill his council seat, it will save the municipality $250,000.”  Imagine, there is over a year in a mandate, and there is no democratic will  to gain an  interested and eager member of the community for that Councillor seat. Who might have some good ideas. But by not doing the right thing, the Corporation will save money.
Mr. Paton stated that both the Mayor and the City Manager asked Mr. Paton to also continue his Councillor position despite the conflict of interest of being an MLA.  Mr. Paton says “I’m as keen as mustard to be on Delta council. I get up every morning and my first hour or two is dealing with municipal issues. I’m more than capable of doing both jobs and doing both jobs very well.”
It is uncomfortable  that Delta Council and the Liberal party leader are happy for Mr. Paton to do his dual role and do not see the conflicts this represents. Meanwhile on Monday evening a block of residents approached Delta council with a lengthy signed petition for a street closure with  traffic calming,  as they were severely impacted by  vehicles short cutting to arterial streets. Delta staff had no solution, saying that the street did not come up as a major crash site with ICBC statistics.  Of course it does not, it is a residential  street where speeding cars are ending up in side yards and taking out hedges.   But this is also an example of the increasing disconnect perceived between Council and Delta residents, and the  need for more community building and working with neighbourhoods, looking at innovative solutions.   Sometimes the solution is not to save money, but to actively work with the community, be part of change, try new concepts. That new kind of thinking is also needed with the Massey Bridge in abeyance. Having a newly elected  independent Councillor that does not represent the “same old” approach would be a good first step.

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Back to the south of the Fraser River where the Massey Bridge is getting a serious rethink by the Province, who are evaluating whether a nearly 4 Billion dollar bridge  located on the sensitive river delta in the wrong place for regional growth is the right thing to do. As Graeme Wood in the Richmond News reports  the Mayor of Richmond Malcolm Brodie expressed gratitude for the pause, saying  “The current government appears to be listening to our concerns that we’ve been expressing over and over for the last four to five years.”
Mr. Brodie is hoping that the Province will consider a twinned tunnel to achieve eight driving lanes. Costs for a twinned tunnel or a bridge are similar, but the tunnel will preclude the port from having large ships navigate upriver. A tunnel would also get rid of the huge highway interchange planned for Steveston Highway.
The Minister of Transportation says that there “was not a thorough business case, a thorough look at all the options.”   The proposed review will  involve the Metro Vancouver mayors and  “focus on what level of improvement is needed in the context of regional and provincial planning, growth and vision, as well as which option would be best for the corridor, be it the proposed 10-lane bridge, a smaller bridge or tunnel.”
Meanwhile in Delta  the Mayor and Council headed up the “We Need A Bridge” campaign counter to the expressed vote of every other mayor in the region.  But residents are starting to notice that their new rookie MLA Ian Paton is serving two roles-he has not given up his position as councillor for the corporation of Delta, and attended the last council meeting via Skype.  The next civic election will not happen until October 2018. While Mr Paton continues in his dual roles he is also lashing out at the work stoppage  on the bridge, repeating  the earthquake in the tunnel safety scenario and reiterating the fact that the tunnel gets congestion. No mention that the congestion, like water, will just plug up closer to Vancouver with a ten lane bridge. You just can’t build your way out of congestion. It doesn’t work like that.
Mr Paton’s refusal to give up his councillor position despite being an MLA brought out a strong reaction from a resident who stated in the local paper “As a taxpayer, it is money well spent to have a by-election and it is unacceptable that Paton continues to draw a salary as councillor at the same time drawing a salary as MLA. Paton quite simply cannot function objectively in the two roles at the same time.”
The practice of dual mandate or as the British call it double jobbing is against the law in many places, but not in British Columbia-or Belgium. You can’t serve as a member of parliament and be a member of the provincial legislature.  But you can be a member of the provincial legislature and a municipal councillor.  The Province of B.C. did try to enact dual office prohibition legislation  but it did not pass a second reading.  There is one  precedent  from twenty years ago when MLA Jenny Kwan also served as a city councillor for a very limited time. But for an emerging municipality like Delta which needs critical thinking about diversifying the economy and energizing new industries, it just makes sense-two heads at two different levels of government are always better than one.

 

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Get a little bit of rain and everyone gets back to business in Vancouver where the The CBC reports on the optimism arising from Greg Moore, the chair of Metro Vancouver and the other cities that comprise this region.  Everyone knows that housing affordability and transportation are the two most important factors in every conversation about this region. The relationship with the new NDP government and the Metro Cities has been encouraging so far, in a refreshing type of way.
After dealing with the  transportation referendum debacle  for Metro Vancouver (which was part of the former premier’s election promises in 2013) the Mayors want to advance the Ten Year Mayors’ Vision they had all agreed upon (except for the Mayor of Delta) .  That plan includes increasing rapid transit in the region and replacing the aging Patullo bridge. And that time is now.
With the new Provincial government actually talking to the Mayors and with the multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge (which was unsupported in the region except by the Mayor of  Delta) on hold, there are now active talks on working together between the region and the Province  to fund the agreed upon transportation initiatives. Instead of the Mayors finding out about the Province’s transportation priorities in the newspaper, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena is following up on her  pledge to work directly with the regional municipalities on advancing their agreed upon plan. It was Mayor Mussatto of the City of North Vancouver that said it best-“The (previous) provincial government didn’t really value our input. We didn’t feel like we were playing as equals at the table.”
That appears to have changed, with more open lines of communication and a renewed interest in moving forward with the important task of making this region accessible to everyone.  As the Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore observed about working with the new Provincial government  “We have disagreements on different things, but we work through them together. If you’re sitting at the table and working together, although you might have even major disagreements on one topic, you can still work together on other topics.”
It’s a simple and direct approach for these two levels of government to advance transportation and accessibility across the region.

 
 
 

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At the end of August Angus Reid  conducted a survey of Metro Vancouver residents about their preferences for a new Massey Bridge at the Massey Tunnel crossing on the Fraser River. Remember that this survey was paid for by the Association of Consulting Engineers of B.C. and the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association. Both of these organizations would have a lot of people quickly employed if the multi-billion dollar ten lane bridge was  to be built. Indeed, that was solidly in the Liberals’ Provincial election platform-build the Massey Bridge, employ 6,000 British Columbians. Don’t ask whether the bridge is in the right place, is sustainable, overbuilt, or a threat to the estuary. It’s about jobs.
Respondents throughout the region were asked the following survey question: “As you may be aware, the provincial government has developed a plan that would see the four-lane Massey Tunnel replaced with a new, higher-capacity bridge over the Fraser River. What are your views on replacing the tunnel with a bridge?”
Now that question has a little bias-it is assuming the replacement of the existing tunnel with a new, shinier, higher performance huge bridge. Respondents were not given any other alternative. The way it was written and said will of course make folks go for the unseen shiny penny, not the existing plodding tunnel which has been so slandered by the Corporation of Delta as antiquated, congested, and dangerous. Never mind the fact that it has performed like a solid workhorse for nearly 60 years and has 80,000 daily vehicles, and that similar designs to this tunnel are still in daily use in Europe. Let’s not consider that the tunnel technology could be part of a hybrid solution of either twinning with a  new tunnel or working in concert with a  smaller new bridge.
Local press including The Vancouver Sun’s Stephanie Ip  reported the survey results, which (of course) suggested that 75 per cent of regional respondents “said they would like to see a higher-capacity bridge built to replace the aging tunnel.”  Those results were even collected by political party, showing that ” those who voted for the B.C. Liberals in the spring election were most likely to support the Liberal-launched bridge project, with 90 per cent voicing support. However, 64 per cent of those who voted NDP also support the project.”
And there’s some interesting stuff-only 37 per cent of respondents in Richmond/Delta, the people most impacted by tunnel “congestion” favoured the new bridge. Which gets us back to why this survey was even conducted in the first place-if you are asking folks farther out in  the region what they want for an efficient driving experience, of course a new bridge sounds perfect. But for Richmond and Delta drivers, the loss of Class 1 arable farmland, the degradation of the banks of the Fraser River for industrial businesses, and the honking huge size of this multi-billion dollar bridge brings up more questions about the most efficient way to support regional transportation. An overbuilt bridge in the wrong place doesn’t solve congestion. It merely moves it.
Kudos to the current Provincial government for reviewing the billion dollar Massey  bridge and working with Metro Vancouver and the Mayors’ Council to figure out what the transportation needs are on a regional basis. Let’s start planning our transit and transportation to ensure that all residents have  mobility and accessibility. Let’s ensure the  plan at the Massey crossing is truly the best fit, and considers all the options, not just an “either/or” on an overbuilt expensive 20th century bridge.

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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.

 

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Nathan Pachal, urbanist, Langley City councillor and transit researcher took a look at 23 transit authorities across Canada and developed a “report card” of who was doing what well.  As reported in the Vancouver Sun by Jennifer Saltman,  Metro Vancouver had  the best revenue kilometres per service hour — meaning transit service is slightly faster than in other regions — though the metric has slowly declined over the past three years.” 
Metro Vancouver also had the highest passenger trip intensity, where service actually goes to areas of high demand. Vancouver ended up with a score of “A” plus, as did Calgary. This was behind Montreal which warranted an  “A” with a triple plus.
Using 2015 data, Nathan does this comparison to highlight ‘ how things actually are, because whether you think the service is fantastic or it’s performing sub par it’s good to have that real information that you can use to compare it to the rest of the nation and see how transit service in Canada and Vancouver is doing.” 
Metro Vancouver’s TransLink has increased its score from an “A” to an “A” plus as the region has the best revenue kilometers per service hour and the highest passenger trip intensity.  The 2016 data which will be used in the next transit report card will include federal  and provincial investments in transportation planning including Metro Vancouver’s ten-year plan for transit and transportation. As regional transit services have not been able to keep up with population growth, such investment is badly needed. You can find further information about the Transit Report Card on Nathan Pachal’s South Fraser Blog available here.

 
 
 

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Back to the south side of the Fraser River where the B.C. Hydro corporation, a crown agency is already estimating the logistics should the multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge project be cancelled. Because of the previous government’s single-mindedness in pushing for the creation of this behemoth of a bridge, the two transmission lines nestled in the tunnel need to be moved to overhead lines. And doing that kind of work is not cheap.
As reported in the Vancouver Sun by  Rob Shaw and Jennifer Saltman, a hydro spokesperson stated: “We’ve informed our contractors that, as a precaution, we’re preparing for the possibility of having to suspend the currently scheduled construction work and have asked for them to identify costs related to suspending their work.”  Imagine-it was going to cost Hydro $76 million dollars to move the two 230,000-volt transmission lines. That included temporary housing of the transmission line, creating stable footings, preparing foundations, and of course building access to the line on either side of the new bridge.
The new NDP Transportation Minister Claire Trevena has met with Delta and Richmond mayors and with the chair of the Metro Vancouver board. You can well imagine that conversation, where all the mayors except the mayor of Delta are against this huge ten lane bridge being built on the sensitive Fraser River delta. There are other transportation projects such as the Patullo Bridge that need to be funded. But Delta is still advocating for their bridge to support future plans of industrialization along the Fraser River and bring those tax dollars into Delta’s coffers. Delta  has not yet diversified their industrial base into more sustainable operations.
Costs to date for the bridge are $70 million for the pre construction work and the public consultation. There are three proposals to build the bridge, and those are going to be evaluated in late Fall. Each of the unsuccessful bidders are guaranteed a two million dollar consolation payment. As the Vancouver Sun notes-will the payout be to two bidders, or will the payout be to all three? There are already some hints in that Premier John Horgan has made it clear that the Massey bridge is NOT a priority for the Metro Mayors’ Council who have other transportation objectives.
In a previous Price Tags Vancouver we’ve addressed the fact you just can’t build your way out of congestion-doing so just creates more congestion. And that is evident in this statement from Transportation Minister Claire Trevena:  “We acknowledge there is a big problem of congestion throughout the (Highway) 99 corridor, but we want to find the best solution and that’s what we’ve been doing is taking our time, looking at what has gone forward, what the alternatives are and working very closely with the mayors for the future.”   I  am betting the best solution does not include a multi-billion dollar ten lane Massey bridge that reinforces the ideals of  twentieth century motordom, where the right to move freely in a single occupant vehicle car precedes environmental and  sustainability concerns for the  sensitive Fraser River delta.

 

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