I’m pleased to be using Price Tags as a venue for getting alternative visions out for discussion. And if there’s one priority that we should be looking at for an alternative vision, it’s the Massey Tunnel – currently under public review by the provincial government.
If our leaders – whether provincial or regional – priorize yet another multi-billion-dollar piece of road infrastructure over all the pressing needs for rapid-transit, whether to service or shape growth – then something is seriously wrong. Beyond seriously wrong.
This would be a culture that is doubling down on denial, building more infrastructure – pipelines, highways, strip malls – at the very moment when hope for leadership on climate change has been lost and science is more definitive than ever that we are heading for catastrophe. When, indeed, catastrophe is actually happening, and we need to prepare for an alternative future.
Instead, we build more of the same.
So, rather than despair, we need to offer alternatives. Jack Becker sent me one today:
An Alternate Vision for the Massey Tunnel – Transit not Car Orientation
In the last few years, there have been a lot of large road and bridge infrastructures projects completed in Metro Vancouver and in BC, including the Port Mann Bridge. It would be quite reasonable to expect that the BC road building and bridge building companies and their trade (advocacy) associations would use the same techniques as other companies in preparing their annual operating budgets. They would look out to see where their revenues would becoming from in the next 5 to 10 years to keep their companies active and to making profits to their expectations.
There are not that many big projects in the horizon, so it would be reasonable to expect them to encourage and advocate with the Premier, government ministers, and other politicians to create new road and bridge building projects to keep them busy. Before elections, governments have been known to announce large projects with expectations that there may be local jobs associated with them as a technique to buy votes.
So now, we have a George Massey Tunnel consultation going on. Will there be an announcement in the months leading up to the vote?
My Vision For Southern Metro Vancouver
The vision is an alternative for building any capacity enhancements for Highway 99 and the George Massey Tunnel. The vision sets up a scenario where the current three lanes in the tunnel would be sufficient for the next 50 years or so. Commercial truck passage through the tunnel would speed up. The vision would also provide an opportunity for reducing car traffic on Highway 17 on the Island.
In this vision, the Canada Line would be expanded across the South Arm of the Fraser River and branch off to Surrey, White Rock, to the border. The other arm would pass through Langley to the Tsawwassen ferry docks with a fast connection to Tsawwassen and the Port Roberts border. …
Monies that would be spend on the Massey Tunnel and Highway 99, beyond maintenance, could be redirected. When the current ferries need replacing or major refitting due to age, the difference in investment cost to passenger-bike ferries could be redirected. The difference in operating costs between the current ferries and passenger-bike ferries that would replace some of the schedule runs could be redirected.
When the vision is built, then some of TransLink’s operating monies could be redirected to this lower operating cost transit solution. This solution benefits from rapid transit economics of about half the operating cost per rider of buses. Bus trips through the tunnel would be eliminated. Current buses would become feeder buses to the rapid transit line. Large buses could be replaced with community buses providing higher level of service at lower overall costs.
Contribution to the Transportation System
As the Canada Line has shown, people will make transition to transit when fast trip times and frequency of service are provided. Those in White Rock and southern Surrey who use the Massey Tunnel with destination to Richmond, the airport and downtown Vancouver could then also make the switch to the Canada Line. The same would hold for residents in Langley, Tsawwassen and Point Roberts. Massey Tunnel traffic volumes would drop, eliminating delays there for commercial vehicles. More direct transit service to the airport would reduce car traffic through the tunnel.
Fast service from downtown Vancouver to Tsawwassen ferry dock could speed up the current shift from taking a car on the ferry to using transit instead. Fast service to downtown Victoria would increase the speed of reducing car traffic on the ferries.
Some of the political points would include less traffic through the tunnel, less congestion time, faster commercial vehicles passing through the tunnel, faster trip time for resident and to the ferry docks, less cost to individuals to reaching Victoria, tourism benefits – appeal to encourage more tourists or Vancouverites to make the trip to Victoria, and social benefits in greenhouse gas reduction.
For municipalities, the political points would include a reason for stopping urban sprawl and developing higher density urban core with financially sustainable retail activities, less infrastructure investment in population growth, and less demand on annual property taxes for servicing this growth than if it were provided through single-family urban sprawl.