A Bridge Too Far?

The Burnaby New Democrat's equity proposal isn't the only controversial resolution submitted for debate at the New Democrat convention, which will take place in Vancouver next month. Back in September, party leader Carole James got a black eye for her position on the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge. Speaking at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention, Ms. James said "Let's put in transit now. Will we need a bridge across the river? Yes, I'm certain we'll need a bridge across the river. But not now."

That equivocal statement seemed to be at odds with some members of Ms. James's own caucus, who appear to be more supportive of that twinning project. But now it looks like New Democrats in Vancouver-Kensington - the riding represented by former transportation critic David Chudnovsky - will be giving her an opportunity to revisit the issue. The constituency association has put forward a resolution calling on the party to "publicly opposes the proposed plans to widen the #1 Highway and build a second Port Mann Bridge."

Still, twinning proponent Jordan Bateman - a provincial Liberal executive member and Langley township councillor - doesn't think that resolution will clarify the New Democrat's position on the bridge project. "But the main thing is, take a stand. If you're going to oppose it, oppose it and let the people of the South Fraser region in particular know exactly where your party stands and exactly what a Carole James in the premier's office is going to mean to the interests of the South Fraser."


* the BC Liberal government plans to widen the #1 Highway between 200th Street in Langley and McGill Street in East Vancouver as part of The Gateway Transportation Strategy
* this would include building a second Port Mann Bridge and widening the highway to
eight lanes
* the price tag for this expansion would be $1.5 billion
* there has been no public consultation and no consideration of alternatives
* concerns of East Vancouver residents over increased traffic flow into their neighbourhood have not been addressed
* the Livable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP) adopted by the GVRD Board in 1996 includes the major objective of achieving a Compact Metropolitan Region, whereas the #1 Highway capacity expansion encourages urban sprawl
* the LRSP also includes the major objective of increasing transportation choice - with the
aim of encouraging transit use and discouraging the growth in single-occupant vehicle travel
* over two-thirds of vehicles using the #1 Highway during rush hour are single occupancy vehicles
* no public transit bus currently crosses the Port Mann Bridge
* capacity expansion inevitably results in induced demand that causes the same congestion problems that were present prior to the capacity expansion
* the triple convergence principle postulates that capacity expansion on one route will attract users who previously traveled on different routes, at different times, and by different modes
* the Port Mann Bridge was widened in 2001 at a cost of $60 million in order to "reduce congestion on the Lower Mainland's worst traffic bottleneck" according to a 2001/02 Ministry of Transportation report, clearly demonstrates these principles in action
* the health costs resulting from the increased traffic contributing to air quality problems have not been factored into the costs of the project
* "A Long-Range Transportation Plan for Greater Vancouver" by Transport 2021 (a joint project of the GVRD and the Province of BC) noted that "the region's citizens expect their transport system to meet social and environmental goals, such as: to provide transportation equitably to a diverse population (30% of whom are either too young or too old to drive) and to help reduce its negative impacts on the region's livability (e.g. to limit urban sprawl and land consumption, preserve green space, limit congestion and intrusion into local neighbourhoods, and cut air and noise pollution)."
* Transport 2021 also noted "Greater Vancouver has concluded that heavy reliance on the private automobile is unhealthy. The desire for greater choice in mode of transport is a recurring theme in public meetings and opinion polls."
* Transport 2021 also noted "congestion is usually considered an evil; however, allowing congestion to deteriorate for the single-occupant vehicles is a practical method for promoting transit and carpools."
* the BC NDP has avoided taking a stand on this critical issue;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the BC NDP publicly opposes the proposed plans to widen the #1 Highway and build a second Port Mann Bridge.


Carole's missed the mark on this one. A few NDP MLA's support the twinning of the bridge.

The Port Mann Bridge was not widened in 2001 as noted in their resolution. That was completed in c. 1998. Did not inlude $10 million it would take to make the HOV lane reversible. If they did that, then buses could have been returned to the span alot earlier, but that's the NDP for you.

Your claims about a $10 million reversible lane are totally false, Red Dog, as you well know. There never was any plan to put in a reversible lane. You made that up.

And any suggestion that you could reverse a reversible lane every few minutes to accommodate buses running in both directions is truly laughable. But then, that's the BC Liberals, and indeed the long running BC Coalition for you! Their ability to make up totally false stories about the highway system is one of their founding characteristics, rather like arrogance in the case of Federal Liberals.

As for the Vancouver Kingsway resolution, it's a completely odious disgrace, choc a bloc full of half-lies and intentionally deceptive platitudes. Let me just deal with one of their more revolting pieces of dishonesty.

* Transport 2021 also noted “congestion is usually considered an evil; however, allowing congestion to deteriorate for the single-occupant vehicles is a practical method for promoting transit and carpools.”

The use of congestion to force people to use transit and carpools is basically a strategy of treating people like children. And that strategy is in force right now, so why isn't it working? The appropriate method is tolls, which will limit demand, and capacity expansion financed by those tolls. Furthermore, the Vancouver Kingsway resolution drafters have quite cleverly failed to mention that the bogus Transport 2021 papers went much further, and maliciously ruled out any kind of rapid rail transit to the suburbs as well. Why? Because they figured that any method, including trains, that gets people from outer suburb to inner city quickly and comfortably would, in their chosen stock propaganda phrase, "promote urban sprawl". The LRSP extended this line of thinking to a ridiculous gospel that says people must live close to their place of work, in clear violation of fundamental Canadian values around worker's rights to choose and change jobs. It says nothing about high housing prices near downtown work locations, and in a truly laughable indication of its underlying Victorian era mentality takes no account whatsoever of two-earner families. Which of the two workplaces are they supposed to live close to? What if one of them changes jobs, how long do they have to sell their home? This is the kind of repulsive anti-labour and anti-equality thinking that the Vancouver Kingsway "socialists" are nakedly pandering to.

According to the "Vancouverism" doctrines of Transport 2021 and the LRSP, all the second class suburbanites would ever be entitled to would be buses, perhaps connecting to one of Greater Vancouver's carefully selected low speed light rail systems. As the Vancouver Kingsway types know, Transport 2021 explicity opposed the installation of commuter rail systems like the West Coast Express. And any suggestion that millions be invested in track improvements that would shorten the WCE's trip time to Mission, say to 50 minutes from 70 minutes, would be violently opposed by all the yahoo LRSP worshippers. They talk about pollution and GHGs, but this chatter is just a cynical smokescreeen for their real agenda, which is simply to protect inner city property prices and tax revenues, and to pursue an explicit and utterly ruthless anti-suburb agenda. People in Abbotsford are expected to smile graciously and pay their provincial and federal taxes to help pay for Vancouver's RAV line, but when they want money spent on the freeway, the answer from David Chudnovksy's riding association is "No!".

Red Dog: Buses could be returned to the Port Mann pretty much any time the MoT decides to build the queue-jumper lanes. The traffic problem isn't on the bridge itself, it's on the approaches.

And while there are some NDP MLAs who support the twinning, that doesn't make it the right decision. Adding road capacity doesn't solve the congestion problem (no, really, it doesn't; and if you think it does, please point me to a few examples where that has worked in North America), and the fact the NDP have made some tentative steps towards articulating that position is a good thing. A principled stand on this issue may not be immediately popular, but I have a feeling that it will become more so as the election comes closer. They're still a bit wishy-washy on it, but their spine is obviously growing in again.

Wow, lots of highway lobbylists here!

"The use of congestion to force people to use transit and carpools is basically a strategy of treating people like children"

That's quite the statement. However, it does sum up the lobbyist position well. Somehow, we are to pour billions and billions (literally) into more road subsidies to keep people driving private automobiles forever - otherwise we are not adult!? Somehow, subsidy to a completely wasteful privledge (driving by yourself, everywhere) that is unsustainable is seen as a necessity?

What the NDP, and the rest of the province, are waffling about - is our religious devotion to the private automobile. There is no good reason for it, global warming has changed the debate from eventually evolving beyond to cars into - we better do it soon. We will all be better for it, in terms of health, environment, finance, safety, culture and social interaction. The adult thing to do is grow up - stop being so childish and demanding these expensive toys - and start funding the movement of people and goods instead of giant metal ego boxes.

It is infantalising of the people of BC to imagine that the general population cannot grow up - that we need to be opiated with car toys. We know what needs to happen. What we need is leadership. Studies show that the general public is AHEAD of the politicians and especially the road building engineers. We do not want another highway expansion project from the 1960s. It was stopped then by the public and will again have to be.

But it is really hard to get around without a car if the politicians don't treat the many real potential alternatives in an adult manner. All the skytrain projects are a prime example. Both parties (and even the socreds in the 80s) jumped to this flashy, budget busting solution instead of getting the busses, light rail, bike and pedestrian facilities built. Now we have a defecit of infrastructure and they want to subsidise more! People are moving to the suburbs because that is the only affordable space - due to the road/oil welfare. People do not like having to do this but our childish politicians and media don't get it. NO MORE DUMB MEGA-PROJECTS. We need to stop bankrupting Translink, and build the local systems that work. We are so behind the rest of the world, but we don't notice because the USA is even worse. We always get tricked by that. Even Bogota, Columbia - a country in civil war - knows better than us how to spend money wisely. They've cut down congestion and pollution and congestion in a short time - by taking transit seriously! They have a tiny budget compared to here - and millions more to move. Yet somehow our wealth keeps us wasteful instead of effective. Grow up already. The Gateway Project isn't some gossipy sideshow - it is the main deal. If there is anything besides hot air in all the promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions this is it. But so far it looks like the same ol head in the sand culture is winning the day. The public doesn't want it - but the media does a great job of denying the possibility of progress here.

This is a critical decision. It's similar to the decision in the early 70s NOT to run a freeway through Chinatown. Are we going to try to continue our love affair with the automobile for the next several decades (we can't forever), or are we going to turn towards transportation that has a chance of being sustainable?

Our congestion problem is not something that will be "solved," whatever we do. (Save by the exodus of a several million people from the Lower Mainland). If we build freeways, they will be clogged within a few years. If we build rail transit, it will be congested, especially at rush hours.

The question is, how do we want to move people and goods? Do we want to move them in private automobiles, which will use the most resources, create the most air pollution, use up the most land, denigrate our liveability the most?
Or do we want to move them in more sustainable ways - via rail down the valley, buses to the rail line, and by encouraging cycling, walking, etc.

Do we want to allow the trucking industry to put even more big rigs on the road, or do we tell them they have to move freight via expanded rail?

Eventually - in 20, 50, 100 years, whatever - we will have to give up cars and trucks, since we won't have the oil or the atmosphere to continue using them. It would be nice (and less painful) to be a bit farsighted and ahead of the curve, and begin to change to sustainable transportation now.

But short term expediency often trumps what is sensible and intelligent. We'll just built one more big bridge (or maybe a couple); we'll just construct just one more ring road; we'll just let the local developer build one more automobile-oriented subdivision without providing adequate transportation; we'll just let Wal-mart put one more big box store on the highway. Then we'll be sustainable.

As the Good Book says, "Without vision, the people perish."


What a bunch of banal, formulaic tripe for the loony left.

You can't run a reliable bus line over the Port Mann bridge. End of story. It may look like you can to people who live in Victoria, but you can't.

The endless excuses for NDP "leader" Carole James' position on the bridge are just too ridiculous. She has been listening to David Chudnovsky for too long.

She led the caucus head-first into the ol' bait and switch ploy. The moment she opposed the Port Mann because it didn't include mass transit, the Liberals unveiled their plan for mass transit on the new twinned bridge. Now Carole and Co. look like a bunch of fools. MLAs like Harry Bains, Bruce Ralston, and Mike Farnworth must be spitting nails right now.

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