The province’s new Massey Bridge replacement for the Massey Tunnel is truly the elephant in the room in regional transportation planning, according to a preliminary Translink assessment, with the capacity to stall or even reduce transit mode share in certain scenarios.
A Translink assessment forwarded to Metro Vancouver’s Transportation Committee was completed before the province confirmed how many lanes would be built, but Translink assumes, not unreasonably, that the number could be six or even eight, compared to the current four lane tunnel. (See the report here at item 5.2)
As Metro staff note, the Translink assessment suggests “a new bridge in 2045 experiences reduced congestion, but the demand approaches capacity. The addition of tolls helps to manage the growth in demand and prolong the capacity of the bridge beyond 2045.
“Transit mode share declines over time whether the tunnel remains or a new untolled bridge is built. With the tunnel, travel speed deteriorates for buses, which makes transit a less desirable choice. Transit mode share falls to 9 percent in 2045.
“With an untolled bridge, the expanded capacity allows for more people to drive and take transit, but transit mode share remains stuck at 9 percent in 2045.
“When tolls are added to the bridge, a transit mode share of 12 percent is achieved due entirely to a decline in people driving or carpooling.”
The challenge for the Translink Mayor’s Council: how to devise a plan to shift mode share to transit, which is the regional goal, while provincial investments head in the other direction.
Then there’s the likelihood, identified in the Metro staff report, that the bridge crossing would increase marine traffic to Fraser Surrey Docks — for coal? other commodities? containers? — effectively reshaping the future location of jobs and goods movement.
It was no surprise that my blog/tweet last week about the proposed service cut on bus route 49 UBC/Metrotown drew a quick reminder from Mayor Greg Moore of Port Coquitlam (@GregMooredotca) that his city’s residents have been the target of several rounds of such “service optimization” efforts by Translink.
Those efficiency drives by Translink, intended to increase ridership on busy routes, are allowing ridership to keep rising across the system while entire neighbourhoods see service reductions. Yet riders on routes like 49 are still experiencing pass-ups and crowding.
So it’s clear that future bus investments will be a critical element of any 10-year transportation investment plan proposed by the new subcommittee of the Translink Mayor’s Council now meeting weekly under Moore’s leadership. (And yes, those routes will need to support region-serving investments in new Skytrain or light rail capacity.)
Moore’s group is driving to an early deadline to propose such a plan to the entire Mayor’s Council for consideration as the basis for the upcoming transit referendum, the exact date and nature of which remain to be determined.
In the meantime, it’s important to maintain the service we do have. That’s why I’ll be proposing the following motion at Vancouver’s upcoming March 11 meeting:
When I met with Champlain Heights resident Heather McCain yesterday to talk about Translink’s proposed service cuts on the 49 UBC/Metrotown Station bus route, she had just finished telling Vancouver Courier report Sandra Thomas about her remarkable grassroots effort to oppose the proposed change.
Thanks to organizing by her and other women in the community, more than 150 turned out to a Feb. 18 Translink open house to discuss the cuts, more than have turned out to all other “service optimization” community meetings combined.
Service optimization is the name for Translink’s continuing effort to make service more efficient by matching the fleet to the demand. In practice, that means some routes lose and other routes gain as Translink drives to maximize the use of equipment.
On the 49 route, the long-standing jog south to provide service to Champlain Heights mall would be cut out, along with 16 stops, to save about four minutes on the trip to UBC.
The gain would be welcome to students, who experience pass-ups and overcrowding on the route, but a terrible setback to a neighbourhood that was build around the 49 service in the 1970s and 1980s. Translink has yet to decide if the change will go ahead; if it does, it would be effective in September.
I’ll be working with my council colleagues to ensure the community’s voice is heard.
What would Vancouver look like if the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts had been linked to a city-straddling freeway? Look no further than Syracuse, where that’s exactly what happened and citizens are debating replacement of the still-busy I-81, which slashes through the heart of town.
Now worn out, the I-81 viaduct must come down before 2017. But how should cars keep moving? On a boulevard, through a tunnel or around the city? It’s just one of many such debates across North America and around the world.
Here in Vancouver, council voted unanimously last June to clear the way for replacement of our Viaducts, subject to successful completion of talks among the city, Concord Pacific and the province which are continuing.