New Massey Bridge could stall or even reduce transit mode share shift, according to Translink study

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.