Motordom
September 14, 2017

Another day,Another document,Another Diatribe from the Liberals over Massey Bridge


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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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.

 

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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.
 

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