Project will help reduce pollution
How can you tell when Gordon Campbell is lying? His lips are moving.
He said that there have been concerns about the air quality impacts in Burnaby but that improving the transportation corridors will lessen the environmental impacts.
Except of course when you look at the government’s own submissions to the Environmental Assessment you realise that they based this forecast on the assumption that the total number and distance of trips in the future is exactly the same without and without the project. The project itself also forecast an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. And that only happens if you burn more fuel – which means more emissions not just of CO2 but common air contaminants as well.
What Campbell wants people to believe is that widening a freeway reduces traffic congestion. This is untrue. Whatever the short term effect is due to faster trips just after opening is more than offset by the new traffic that is generated by the facility. Traffic expands to fill the space available. Trips that are currently deterred by the prospect of having to deal with congestion will start to be made. More trips – and longer trips. This has always happened every time a new freeway or expressway is opened in urban areas. After years of freeway expansions people began to realise that the loss of neighbourhoods to construction of ever wider roads was not compensated for by any great advance in mobility. And most places then stopped building and widening freeways – and gradually urban areas improved and stabilised as a result. Some even grew vastly more popular and successful – downtown Vancouver being one of the few major cities in North America that was spared the destruction of a downtown freeway. Indeed we keep asking – and have yet had no answer – where has this policy ever worked? Just one example would do.
“We’re trying to create healthy, livable urban communities, places where people can work, live, play, where people can choose to walk to work. … You can’t do that if you don’t design your cities around that,” he said
And that means, dummy, no more freeways but build the transit first. You cannot walk to work in a highway oriented suburb: that is also why Surrey has a transit mode share of 4%. The so called “transit plan” would see SkyTrain reach Langley by 2030 – after more than 15 years of the impact of an expanded freeway. Yes we want “healthy, livable urban communities” and you only get those when you give people an alternative to driving – not encouragement to drive more.
“Gateway is not just about a transportation strategy, it’s about wedding a transportation strategy with an urban development strategy. Surrey is going to be the second major city in British Columbia, there’s just no question about that.”
And if the freeway is widened, it will look much as it does today – only more so. More low density subdivisions, more plazas, more highway oriented development. Because you will never get transit oriented development until you build the transit. The “urban development strategy” here is simply to keep on repeating the mistakes of the past and expecting a different outcome.
What the much expanded freeway will do is dump lots more traffic into the areas around the freeway exits. All those new trips generated by the vision of vast swathes of empty concrete have to start and end somewhere. So the street networks that feed and drain the freeway will see much heavier demand. If you think line ups on 152 Street in the early morning are bad now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The citizens of Burnaby are right to be worried about where the traffic coming off Highway #1 will go – because it will go through where they live. The great thing about building roads is that it creates more demand which means you have to build more roads … and so it goes. That has been the history of North America in the last sixty years or more.
Most people in this region recognize that every new freeway and bridge has resulted in more traffic – not less. Most people when asked recognise that we have under invested in transit in this region and think we should be correcting that mistake. The money spent on this one freeway project could bring light rail transit to most of Surrey and Langley. As Gordon Campbell himself noted with respect to the Canada Line – two railway tracks provide the same people moving capacity as ten lanes of freeway. (Actually most places that build rapid transit expect rather more than that.) So if that is true in Richmond why isn’t it in Surrey?