Posts Tagged ‘George Massey Tunnel’
You will understand that I approach this with a background in trying to integrate transportation and regional planning. It is what I have been doing for the last 50 years, one way and another. Experience has shown us that simply building freeways as a way of dealing with traffic congestion is ineffective. As the capacity of the system is increased, the traffic gets worse, simply due to the almost immediate impact of induced demand, but in the longer term by the changes brought about in land use. Essentially expanding road capacity encourages more car trips, most of which are made in single occupant vehicles. This is about the most inefficient use of transportation infrastructure we could possibly devise. A lane of freeway can move 2,000 vehicles per hour – or 2,500 people more or less. Car occupancy in this region has been generally higher than the rest of North America – but not by very much. The same width of lane used for transit increases the potential capacity to 20,000 people per hour.
The Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) was designed to tackle this issue, by controls on land use and changing the priorities for transportation provision. We said we would build a compact urban region, with complete communities that would protect green space and increase transportation choice. The province of BC was part of that agreement but in the last ten years has decided unilaterally to behave as though it did not exist. The freeways have been widened, land owned by the provincial government has been released for development and resources for better transit have been almost but not entirely restricted to one or two major projects.
Replacing the Massey Tunnel and widening the freeway from the Oak Street Bridge to the US border was never part of the RGS. It spoke about increasing the utilisation of the existing highway by promoting the use of higher occupancy vehicles. It is no coincidence that the man most responsible for getting car sharing going here was a cranberry farmer, Jack Bell. Arguments about how to define an HOV were key to the establishment of Translink: the then Mayor of Delta insisted on 2+ for Highway 17/99 or she wasn’t going to sign on.
I think it is fair to say that most people were surprised when Christy Clark announced her plan for a massive new bridge. Most people were unaware that this was in the works – and had been for some time. But that had little to do with the conventional land use transportation framework or the regional growth strategy. It was driven by the Port of Vancouver. In fact the process has been remarkably similar to the one than led to the widening of Highway #1 and the new Port Mann Bridge. The Gateway Council was front and center – but as we now know the trucks are not using the new tolled crossing so much as the grossly overloaded and inadequate Patullo Bridge – pouring more traffic onto city streets in New Westminster. Everything that the RGS was supposed to avoid.
The process by which we have got to the present has been carefully documented by Douglas Massey: the son of the man for whom the tunnel was named. He has given me permission to place his work here as a pdf file. The Vision to Build the George Massey Tunnel & the Road to its Removal Jan 19 2016. [Please note that on February 2, 2016 I replaced the file with a revised version that contains the complete document] Here are a couple of key paragraphs to show you why you need to read the whole thing.
The intention of this document is to show the intent from day one that any crossing of the Lower Fraser River, from the Gulf of Georgia to New Westminster, shall not and will not be granted approval unless it meets the approval of the present and future needs of Harbour Boards and industry, never mind the needs of the people, their environment, or the sustainability of the Lower Fraser River for fish and wildfowl.
Port Metro Vancouver, Vice President Duncan Wilson, was quoted in a letter to the editor of Richmond Review on July of 2015, “The depth of the river is also a limitation. While the removal of the tunnel may create greater depth at that point in the river, the amount of dredging required on either side of the former tunnel would be extensive and potentially cost prohibitive.”
The facts are: that in order for the proposed 14.5m depth to be achieved and maintained, the George Massey Tunnel would have to be removed along with GVWD 30” water main (costs yet to be determined) along with a one- time dredging cost of $200 million, and an estimated annual dredging costs of $30 million. There would be other costs, before any dredging to deepen the Lower Fraser River could take place:(1) The cost of a full hydrological study that would have to be undertaken, to determine what effects this would have on the sustainability of its ecosystem to support fish and wildlife. (2) The effects it would have on the existing dikes and the costs to rebuild them if necessary. (3) Determining if the deepening would result in the salinity advancing too far up river and affecting the ability of the farmers to use the water for irrigation.
All during these discussions there has been little to no discussion about the need for a new river crossing to alleviate the congestion for people and their vehicles. The, emphasis of all previous and present discussions has been on the moving of bulk cargo. Any new crossing of the Lower Fraser River should be to improve the movement of people and not just to make it possible for the complete industrialization and dredging of the Lower Fraser River, at the expense of the river’s ecosystem, that is so vital for its sustainability and ability to preserve its fish and wetlands that are so significant to the survival of the wildfowl and mankind. Prepared by: Douglas George Massey
It seems to me that we are repeating the same pattern we saw with the Gateway. The arguments to justify the expansion of the freeways – and the building of the South Fraser Perimeter Road – were always about trucks. But the real agenda is to encourage the typical pattern of suburban sprawl that the RGS was supposed to deter. It is clear that the BC Liberals care very little about sustainability: transit, walkability, greenhouse gas reduction get verbal acknowledgement – mostly PR fluff – but the actual decision making is always based on business as usual. And not even growth based on what we can do, and are doing well. But rather the things that we have always done – which turn out to be both of little economic value and also come with huge environmental costs.
We can see why they wanted to improve the Sea to Sky – it opened up land for development in places where the regional growth plan had been careful to restrict reliance on long distance commuting into Metro Vancouver. The Port Mann Bridge is tolled, and is carrying less traffic than the old bridge as a result, but none of the rest of widened highway #1 is tolled. The Golden Ears opens up Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge in a way that the ferry never could have coped with. The SFPR and now a widened Highway 99 clearly will promote more sprawl in Delta. It is already apparent and will increasingly threaten the ALR. But as we have seen with Site C, the BC Liberals care not at all about the ability to grow our own food, now or in the future. Their treatment of wolves and bears shows how little ecology is understood.
Port expansion and the reliance on LNG are dangerous nonsense. Climate change is the most important challenge we face, but it is also an opportunity to develop new ways of being. The old model of ripping out resources and disposing of waste carelessly cannot continue. But we already have far more of our GDP coming from a new economy that could potentially be supported by renewable resources. We have huge potential for wind, wave, geothermal and solar energy. We do not need Site C – nor is there a viable market now for LNG. We do need to reduce the use of fossil fuel powered single occupant vehicles. We can grow much more of our own food. California is not going to be able to feed itself let alone us. We must protect the ALR and we do need better ways to get around than driving ourselves for every purpose. We know how to do that. Why does Christy Clark not understand any of this and why is she stuck in the 1950’s? And how can we make sure she never gets elected to anything again?
I apologize for driving you to a paywalled article. Francis Bula is reporting on what Geoff Freer (executive project director for the Massey project) says about replacing the tunnel and why transit won’t meet that “need”
60 per cent of the commuters are travelling to Richmond or Surrey, the U.S. border or the ferries – so are unlikely to use transit anyway.
The chutzpah of this statement takes one’s breath away.
It is not as if the Canada Line was not already changing travel patterns in Richmond. And the introduction of useful inter-regional connections to the transit system (over many years since it was entirely focussed on downtown Vancouver) with direct service to Metrotown and Newton shows that when the transit system actually looks at how people are moving, as opposed to used to move, even ordinary bus services can be successful. When I first arrived in Richmond and had to commute to Gateway in Surrey I initially tried the #410. Then it was infrequent, with a huge one way loop through Richmond wand was always very lightly loaded. Over the years it has become one of the busiest bus services in Richmond and the only one in the Frequent Transit Network.
The other huge change was when Translink backed off the long held belief that it ought not to compete with Pacific Stage Lines and run a direct bus between the ferry at Tsawwassen and downtown Vancouver. The new service they introduced initially required a transfer to the B-Line at Airport Station, and now requires a transfer to the Canada Line at Bridgeport. It coincided with increased vehicle fares on the ferry so that walk-on traffic grew exponentially. (BC Transit had long met ferries with an express bus from Swartz Bay to downtown Victoria). The #620 now requires articulated buses and frequent relief vehicles. Just like the express bus to Horseshoe Bay.
As for cross border services, it would be easy to set up a “walk across the line service” at Peace Arch, with connections to Bellingham. There are just much more pressing priorities – mostly getting students to post secondary institutions thanks to UPass. But bus service across the line has seen significant commercial traffic with both Bolt bus and Quick Shuttle in head to head competition. Some of the casinos down there run their own shuttles too. The best thing that has happened so far on this route has been the introduction of a morning Amtrak train departure for Seattle.
What is actually needed is transportation planning that looks at the future pattern of development in the region, and integrates land use planning to meet population growth and travel needs. Strangely the desire of Port Authority for deeper draft for vessels in the Fraser River is not the first and foremost consideration. Port expansion is not a driver of economic growth. It is path towards calamity, since it is driven by the desires of a few very rich people to export yet more fossil fuel at a time when anyone with any sense recognizes that we as a species have no choice but to leave the carbon in the ground.
I think that one of the great benefits of rail transit development would be protection of the last bits of highly productive agricultural land left after the ruinous performance of the BC Liberals to date. People riding on trains get fast frequent service through areas which see no development at all, because it is concentrated around the stations. What part of Transit Oriented Development do you NOT understand, Mr Freer? Expand the freeway and sprawl follows almost inevitably.
It is perhaps a bit hard for people here to understand the idea of fast frequent electric trains that are not subways or SkyTrain, but they are a feature of most large city regions – even in America. As we saw in yesterday’s post even LA is bringing back the interurban. West Coast Express is not a good model as it only serves commuting to downtown on weekdays. All day every day bi-drectional service demands dedicated track – or at least the ability to confine freight movements to the hours when most people are asleep.
Transit to Delta and South Surrey has to be express bus for now, just because there is so much catch up in the rest of the region. But in the longer term, really good, fast, longer distance electric trains – which can actually climb quite steep grades equivalent to roads over bridges – must be part of planning how this region grows. It requires a bit better understanding of the regional economy than just assuming that somehow coal and LNG exports will secure our future, when they obviously do no such thing.
This image comes from the South Delta Leader – and their credit simply reads “via Twitter”
The Province of BC is going through its public consultation process. As usual, I get the distinct impression that they have already decided on that they think is the correct technical solution to the problem they pose. Nothing much has changed at the Ministry of Transportation which is still operating in “predict and provide” mode. They continue to follow the pattern set by Robert Moses.
My attention was drawn to this by my Green Party colleague Michael Wolfe (who tweets as @bogberry) “See for yourself “Who Uses the Tunnel?” 1% of traffic is transit vehicles, moving about 26% of people” referring to this graphic
Which adds underneath “HOV and transit currently carry up to 46% of people through the tunnel”
ADDENDUM Please make sure you read the comment by Voony – with a link to his blog – to see why these MoT transit numbers are simply WRONG
But the whole tenor of the materials (the link above has the entire pdf file) is based on the idea that congestion is getting worse so we must build more space for car traffic. Not that that has ever cured congestion anywhere.
Actually the tunnel now sees a bit less traffic than it used to –
From the 2008 Regional Screenline Survey (measuring traffic volumes in the Lower Mainland):
The total number of vehicles per day in 2008 was 390,972, which reflects a minor decrease of 2.6% from 401,227 vehicles in 2004; the greatest decreases were at the Deas Tunnel (-7.5%) and the Pattullo Bridge (-5.8%) …>
I would like to provide a link to that but it came from Gord Price’s blog – there is none there and a search of the Translink document library gave me lots of other stuff but not that quote.
But “Canadian Veggie” came to the rescue in the comments and provides this useful graph
The MoT actually understates this “Over the past 10 years, average annual daily traffic volumes have seen minimal growth. This is attributed in large part to the fact that the tunnel is already at capacity for a good portion of the day, as well as to improved transit service”
Actually declining traffic is being observed all over the place – Gord Price has turned it into one of the memes he writes about regularly. Sightline has this on two different bridges crossing the Willamette River in Salem, OR. “The data show that traffic across the river has essentially flatlined for the last decade; there’s simply no evidence of growth. If anything, the numbers show a very slight decline, given that traffic reached a ten-year low in 2011. ”
From which you can see that the AM peak is slightly down, but most of the reduction occurs in the evening. 5,000 vehicles per hour is “close to capacity” in the interpeak when two lanes operate in each direction. At peaks, the contraflow lane adds to one direction’s flow at the expense of the other. So if you are south of the tunnel in the mid-afternoon, trying to get north means a longish wait. Or as they say “a single traffic lane is no longer sufficient to manage off-peak direction volumes. Long lineups are causing congestion…”
So why does it need replacement? “the tunnel currently has 10 – 15 years of serviceable life before major operating systems will need to be replaced.” So that is not the actual tunnel itself, it refers to the traffic signals, the ventilation system and the drainage pumps. The sort of things that get replaced on a regular basis.
“At 22 metres below sea level, the tunnel is … too shallow to accommodate the navigational access needs of increasing ship sizes” Two thoughts about that. First is that sea level rise is going to add 6 feet or more to that before the end of the century – that is if we are better at predicting sea level rise than we have been over predicting the loss of arctic ice. Provided of course that you can persuade Richmond and Delta to raise their dykes enough to keep the water out of the tunnel itself. (see next post) But secondly, the expansion of Roberts Bank is going to provide a lot more berthing capacity for very large ships, without having to worry about squeezing underneath the Alex Fraser Bridge. Given that huge amounts of money are being spent on port expansion there – and the South Fraser Perimeter Road too – why does the Port think it needs yet more large ship capacity – and what happens to the existing deep water berths on the Burrard Inlet (finest natural harbour in the world and all that)? I do NOT think that the predictive capabilities of the Port Authority should actually drive the transportation and land use plans of the region, given their current dismal performance.
I did look through the feedback forms, and there is some ability to state that you actually value agricultural land over concrete. But population expansion – and (by implication) more sprawl – seems to be a given. But I would like more ability to state that I do not think the tunnel does need to be replaced, especially when I think that it is likely to be yet another massive cable stayed bridge, with immense ramps on either side that will have to be fitted alongside the existing freeway. There is no illustration of what that would look like. But it either fits behind all the temples along No 5 Road (where the land has not generally been cultivated even though it is ALR) or – more likely – along Sidaway and over the golf course – with a nice big interchange at Blundell to gratify the City of Richmond’s ambitions. Quite how the connections at Steveston Highway might work, my imagination fails.
As part of the context there is also this gem
“Provincial Transit Plan: Consideration will be given to increasing transit share in Metro Vancouver from 11 to 17 per cent by 2020”
Not an actual commitment, of course. And not a very significant target either. I recall that we were talking about a 17 per cent target for 2010 back in 2004 – because it did not seem like too much of stretch back then.
My feedback would be that the tunnel can be made to work more effectively at people moving. And if we really are going to allow more people south of the Fraser then we should get serious about where they will be living and working. Mixed land use might cut the need to travel. “Building complete communities” was what we once called that – not more dormitory suburbs. We could also look at building a transit system with more people moving capacity for the longer term – perhaps electric trains serving the corridor all the way to Seattle, for instance. In the meantime, we simply extend the bus lanes to the south tunnel portal and get them out of the last few hundreds of metres of congestion. And crack down really hard on HOV lane intrusions.
We might also think about what the region is going to need as water shortages and rising temperatures in the California desert mean that it will not be the place which we can no longer rely on for our vegetables and fruit. That maybe instead of expanding ports and pretending that importing miners from China is a “jobs plan”, that we adopt a real economic strategy of import replacement and increasing local resilience.
Actually I think that is my take home message. Next spring we get to chose a new provincial government. It looks like that could be one that takes a new direction. I have a sinking feeling that the NDP will be just as wedded to conventional economic growth as the BC Liberals – and have nothing really different to offer. But perhaps a few Green MLAs can help them see a better way.
POSTSCRIPT – the next thing I read was this BIV profile of Moe Sihota that quotes Glen Clark, which says something about how the NDP and the Liberals are actually the same kind of people
It almost beggars belief, but when Canwest is the organisation that is delivering the news, do not expect anything like objectivity. Once again the astroturf group “Get Moving BC” manages to get more column inches than any of the real citizen based, grass roots organisations opposed to freeways do. And for a proposal which is way beyond any stupidity that has so far been visited on this region. They trot out Patrick O’Connor as the author of the report – and claim he is an “expert” – but an expert in what? According to their own web site “The report itself was put together by a volunteer, Patrick O’Connor”
– but I still cannot find out why he might be considered to be an “expert”.
So how does the calculation get made that an eight lane bridge is needed? The tunnel currently carries 21,864 vehicles daily – so in 24 hours it moves on its 4 lanes (each has 2,000 vph capacity) rather less than three times its hourly maximum capacity. Or in other words for most of the day outside the peaks it is quite adequate. The problem of the tunnel is that more than two lanes feed into it – just like the Port Mann Bridge. On the Richmond side long line ups form along Steveston Highway because the traffic from that road plus Number 5 Road is trying to squeeze itself onto the two lane overpass which is the controlling influence on the Highway 99 intersection. The queues regularly interfere with the Steveston Highway /No 5 Road intersection. Simply replacing that two lane overpass – needed since the Riverport development opened up – would do a lot to resolve that issue. When many lanes funnel down into one or two, you need storage capacity that does not block movement in other directions. That is what is wrong on the north side. On the south side the queues are long but simply tail back through the 99/17 intersection which continues to work.
But any bridge here would need to have enough clearance for ocean going vessels – so it would be at least as high as the Alex Fraser with similar long ramps on either side. That is a lot of ALR to give up, and an incredible blot on the landscape. Just looking at the Google map it looks like the north side ramp would not touch down until Francis at least.
I expect that the calculation made by this “expert” is simply to double what is there now. Though why the tunnel has to be removed as well is beyond me. A four lane bridge and a four lane tunnel would do the same thing and at half the cost. But the congestion relief would be short lived. There has never been anywhere that I can find that has successfully conquered traffic congestion by building more roads. Indeed in the same piece it is pointed out the two track Canada Line bridge will provide the same people moving capacity as a ten lane road bridge. Indeed this is the nearest thing to “balance” that is achieved – talking to Councillor Rob Howard, who is not an expert either, just a local politician who sat on a committee once and may have read some reports.
And of course what our expert at Get Moving BC does not say is where all this newly induced traffic is going to go. Obviously, the demand on local streets will be intolerable. But noit to worry they are sure to come up with all sorts of proposals to build ever wider arterials. That’s the good thing about advocating road expansions. It never stops, because traffic always fills up the space thus creating the “need” for more.
Peak oil? Impact of vehicle emissions on us or our climate? Promotion of yet more suburban sprawl across the ALR? Not a word.
This is all very encouraging. Nice pic of my friend Bonnie Fenton. Good article all round. What is less impressive the box which is headed “Experts Grade the Local Cycling Infrastructure” which deals with Vancouver, the Tri-Cities, Burnaby & New Westminster, the North Shore, Surrey and Langley. I do not know why both Richmond and Delta have been left out, but they are both very good places to cycle – being flat – but there are a few features missing.
At one time I was both a recreational and a commuter cyclist. And this week I got my bike out of storage and down to Steveston bikes in their new digs at the south dyke end of No 2 Road (next door to the excellent bakery that deserves many more customers) for a clean and tune up, as well as fitting a bike rack to my Yaris.
Richmond does have a network of marked cycle routes. These are mostly on major roads, with just a painted line. The bike lane is removed at signalised intersections and becomes the right turn lane. There are no advance stop lines for cyclists anywhere. Several routes have shared access with pedestrians but are car free. These include the dykes, Shell Road/Horseshoe Slough and we will also have a link across the North Arm on the new Canada Line Bridge. Bike lanes are also provided on the Alex Fraser, Arthur Laing, Oak Street and Knight Street bridges. Unfortunately there is no marked link between the north end of Shell Road and the south end of Knight Street bridge but you can figure out a reasonable route through Bath Slough and the back streets (Rees Road yay!).
There is room for a segregated bike path on the CN right of way along the whole of Shell Road but for reasons that are not clear the bike route ends at its most vulnerable area – the ramps to Highway #99 at Shell. This is one of the most hair raising areas to try and bike through and is not for beginners or those of a nervous disposition. CN has applied to abandon its trackage here in favour of a new route near the south dyke, so there is hope for the future in terms of an exclusive right of way.
The bike lanes on the bridges tend to get used bi-directionally, and I have always noticed great politeness between cyclists as it is clear that someone has to stop and give way. (I think a cyclist going uphill should have priority.) I wish I could say the same of pedestrians.
The dykes are mostly used by recreational cyclists, and the west dyke especially can get very busy on nice summer days. The trail does get a bit lost in Steveston, but that is a good place to go look for refreshments anyway. The concession in Garry Point being a very popular stop (PaJos fish and chips, Timothy’s coffee and ice cream). The only place where I have seen user conflict is the dogs off leash area at the end of No 3 Road and round the Crown Paper plant. Some pooches find moving pedals very tempting targets. By the way, west of No 5 Road facilities get very sparse indeed.
Without doubt the worst lack of continuity is on Garden City which is a cycle route north of Granville (another marked bike route). It is not at recommended that cyclists or pedestrians try to get south on Garden City across Granville. The only bike lanes on Garden City south of Granville are on the short section between Francis and Williams: one is shared with pedestrians, the other is a marked curb lane. A similar lack of continuity is seen on Gilbert Road and the Dinsmore Bridge.
But the biggest issue in terms of the regional network is the Massey Tunnel. There is a free bike shuttle (operated by Mainroad), but it is not geared to year round commuting, and a lot of cyclists resent having to pay for a two zone bus ticket just to get from Ladner to Ironwood.