Monday, December 11, 2017

TransLink Study: Traffic way up across Fraser River crossings, commutes slower

At the start of September, the provincial government removed the tolls from the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges. Transportation planners predicted that there would be a marked increase in vehicles across these two bridges. They were not wrong.

Port Mann Bridge: Source:

Preliminary data and personal anecdotes suggested that traffic ballooned across the Port Mann and Golden Ears. Unprompted, Langley residents have been telling me that they want the tolls back to make their commutes faster again.

TransLink staff crunched the numbers, and they found that traffic was up close to 30% on the Port Mann Bridge and 30% on the Golden Ear Bridge. They also found that traffic decreased by 11% on the Pattullo Bridge, 5% on the Alex Fraser Bridge, and 2% through the Massey Tunnel.

Truck traffic decreased 19% on the Pattullo Bridge. There was a 30% increase of truck traffic on the Golden Ears Bridge, and 15% increase on the Port Mann Bridge.

When all Fraser River crossings are considering, there was an overall average 7% increase in traffic during the weekdays and 9% increase on the weekends. That’s an extra 30,000 vehicles per day!

At the same time, transit ridership across the Fraser River has continued to grow at a similar rate as last year. These extra 30,000 vehicle trips materialized out of thin air. This is called induced demand. Simply put, more vehicle lanes produce more traffic.

How did this increase people’s commute times? Travel between New Westminster/Surrey or New Westminster/Coquitlam by car is now faster. Otherwise, travel times are longer.

TransLink’s Regional Transportation Model, which is used to predict traffic patterns, was “close to the actual outcomes on all three types of impact.”

The removal of the tolls at the Port Man Bridge and Golden Ear Bridge has been an excellent case study of tolling and its impact on congestion. The only way that our growing region will be able to reduce vehicle congestion along major corridors will be by implementing a system of fair tolls at all major crossing.

I believe that as a region-wide tolling system is implemented, gas tax should be lowered. This is one way to make the new tolling system fair.

The Mayors’ Council’s Mobility Pricing Independent Commission is looking a different decongestion road pricing options. Tolling is only one of the options that they are looking into. The commission will be presenting its recommendations early next year for the provincial government to consider.

1 comment:

Frank Bucholtz said...

I agree that the best solution is modest tolls on each bridge, or perhaps distance pricing. For example, one could pay an additional charge when renewing car insurance, based on the actual kilometres driven between insurance renewals. Gas tax should be lowered substantially at the same time.
As for induced demand, I believe at least part of the reason for 30,000 additional trips per day is due to the strong economy. More people working translates to more people on the move.