Thursday, January 5, 2012

BC Ministry of Transportation on Transit - Highway 99 Bus Lanes

When I think of the BC Ministry of Transportation, I usually think of an agency that is into 1960’s style freeways and SkyTrain. Maybe that is unfair because over the holidays, I came across a report called “Highway 99 Corridor Assessment King George Highway to Oak St. Bridge.” The Ministry looked at how to improve accessibility to points over the Fraser River for people in Surrey, Delta, and White Rock on the Highway 99 corridor.

If you look at Highway 99 today, you’ll see that work is almost complete on a bus lane system to speed up and provide reliable travel for TransLink bus users.
It is interesting to note that although the numbers of buses on the corridor represent less than 1% of the vehicular demand, the person demand accommodated by buses on the highway ranges from 17% to 26%.
One of the great things about the Highway 99 corridor is that the Ministry of Transportation didn’t look at how many cars they can move per hour, but looked at how many people they can move per hour. When you look at this metric transit, walking, and cycling will always come out ahead. In fact, dedicating space for single-occupancy vehicles is the least efficient use of land.

Another gem in the report is a chart that predicts transit use based on its speed competitiveness with the car.

Source: Metropolitan Transportation Planning (John W. Hickey, Robert C. Stewart, Richard D. Walker) – Modal Shares Associated with Transit to GP Travel Time Ratios
Based on projected land use changes it is expected that travel demand on the Highway 99 corridor will increase 36% by 2021 and another 50% from 2021 to 2031. Given that there are no current plans to expand the capacity of Highway it is unlikely that such growth could occur without a major shift to the transit mode.
According to the Provincial Transit Plan, by 2020 transit should account for 17% of all trips in our region. This means that transit will have to take no more than double the time as traveling by car door-to-door.

The Ministry of Transportation's solution to improving accessibility on the Highway 99 corridor is to not build more highway, but to build a better highway.

Between 2009 and 2020, it will cost $106.3 million to improve transit access on the corridor which would account for about 40% of all trips by 2021 and 50% of all trips by 2031.

According to the Ministry of Transportation “approximately 120,000 daily trips are destined to Richmond, Vancouver and the North Shore [from Surrey, Delta, and White Rock.] Approximately 50% of this demand of this demand is served by Highway 99.”

What I find interesting is that while the Highway 99 corridor project is looking at how to most efficiently move people, the Gateway/Highway 1 program is looking at how to move the most cars. Moving more cars is costing us $2,460 million or 2314% more than the moving people on Highway 99. To me this is insane!

Only in Metro Vancouver could you have the same agency build transportation projects based on diametrically opposite ideals. What we need in our region is more projects like Highway 99 which provide better value for our taxpayer dollars and provide a longer-term solution to moving people in our region.

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