If you have ventured out to this mall which takes up 1.2 million square feet of real estate, you will have noticed that it is very much the same kind of mall reminiscent of the last century. It is located very close to the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal on the Delta flood plain which did contain the most arable soils in Canada. It has no density around it, and while there are transit connections, it’s still a hike to get there from anywhere. To attract employees the mall has laid on its own bus to move employees from Scott Road Station in Surrey. This mall is really designed with its 6,000 parking spaces for people with vehicles prepared to drive a long way and go for a day shopping. It’s so twentieth century.
The mall is very lightly used by consumers on weekdays. There is such little mall traffic that the whole place shut down early with some of the winter snow storms in order to get employees safely home. Most evenings the mall is fairly empty. The idea of pedestrians walking to the mall was never really thought of, despite the fact that Tsawwassen is just across the seven lane highway. Price Tags has previously written about the accessibility challenges for pedestrians and cyclists.
As reported in the Delta Optimist the Corporation of Delta has been lobbying for a five million dollar pedestrian overpass at Highway 17 and 52nd Street to get pedestrians safely across the street to the mall. This intersection has been fabulously overbuilt by the Province in true super highway style, with dedicated right lanes on and off of 52nd Street, despite the fact that traffic is throttling down to a municipal two lane road. Pedestrians and cyclists have to cross 40 meters across seven lanes of traffic and two turning lanes, leapfrogging to tiny cement pedestrian refuge “islands”. There are lots of improvements that could be made at grade to make it easier for pedestrians to cross to/from the mall that would not require a huge pedestrian bridge. But that is not in the purview of Delta, or the Province. It’s all about that five million dollar pedestrian bridge.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone wrote the Corporation of Delta stating he’s been evaluating the intersection and “These assessments found that pedestrian volumes were lower than the forecasted volumes which were considered when the business case was undertaken to address the merits of a pedestrian overpass. In addition, staff did not observe pedestrian overcrowding on the traffic islands or any other pedestrian related safety concerns.”
And here’s the best part- “The current intersection improvements, like similar intersections within the Lower Mainland, provide adequate accommodation for pedestrians and cyclists.” Even the Delta Chief of Police has weighed in, noting that in his expertise the length of the intersection, the signal timing and traffic speed make pedestrian access across Highway 17 challenging. Meanwhile, Tsawwassen Mills Mall motors on, looking for those last-century consumers willing to spend a day at the mall.