Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Building our transportation network like it’s the 1990s

Last week I posted about the Massey Bridge. I posted that back in the 1950s, the province decided to build a tunnel because a bridge didn’t make sense to construct for a host of good reasons. It is critical that we look back to history, so we understand why things are the way they are. This knowledge can hopefully help us make better decisions today.

While looking at history is important for making decisions today, just because something was a good idea back in the day, doesn’t mean it is a good idea today.

I’m sure you can think of at least three things that we thought were good ideas back in the 1990s which we don’t think are good ideas today. In transportation planning, the same holds true.

For example if Fraser Highway expansion happened back in the 1990s, there would be no sidewalks, multi-use trials, or bike lanes along the full corridor. Back in the 1990s, you also wouldn’t have seen roundabouts being installed as the preferred intersection choice like they are today.

In the 1990s the Canada Line wasn’t even on anyone's radar, yet it has proven to be one of the most successful rapid transit lines in the region.

This is why I get frustrated when projects are being built based on plans from 20 years ago, just because they were in plans 20 years ago. Does it really make sense to build a highway through New Westminster in 2015? It was planned for in 1993, but New Westminster and our region is a very different place now. Bulldozing Downtown New West and ripping up their waterfront park for a highway is something governments would have done in the past, but is something we won’t even consider today.

A few nights ago, I was using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and found the BC Transportation Financing Authority’s website from 1997. This organization was merged back into the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure by the BC Liberal in the 2000s. I found a document called “Lower Mainland Highway Improvement Outlook”.

This outlook is based on a transportation plan written in 1995. This 20 year old highway plan is what the BC government is still using to build transportation infrastructure in Metro Vancouver today.

Some of the highlights of the plan include:

  • Highway 1 corridor expansion
  • Highway 99 corridor expansion
  • Development of the South Fraser Perimeter Road
  • Construction of a North Fraser Connector at either Barnston, 200th Street or Cottonwood to link Surrey with communities north of the Fraser River
  • Construction of the Stormont-McBride connector
  • Improved connections along Highway 91 corridor between Tree Island and Marine Way, such as a new four lane bridge

I have to wonder if the provincial government will actually try to build a freeway through New Westminster, or a new bridge between Marine Drive and Highway 91.

The unfortunate reality of building a transportation network based on information from 1995 and earlier is that the billions spent on these projects won’t actually help the vast majority of people get around.

Trip Distribution by Sub-Region of Trip Origin (South of Fraser) from 2011 Metro Vancouver Regional Trip Diary Survey - Analysis Report. Select map to enlarge.

In Surrey and White Rock, these projects will only help 18% of all trips being made at most. If you happen to be in the 82% group, the province’s transportation plan will not do one thing to help you.

While it is important to look to the past for guidance, we shouldn’t be building our transportation network based on plans from the 1990s.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Now the push for 16 ave highway