What next?

Now that the UBE has been killed, and TransLink has decided that the NFPR is no longer a priority, the natural question is “What next”?

First off, we now have the luxury of a bit of time. Part of the original concern with the UBE was that there was a pressing deadline: shovels had to go into dirt real soon or Federal matching funds were going to disappear. That meant we didn’t have time to come up with comprehensive solutions for the Brunette-Columbia-Front-Stewardson corridor (the BCFS as I am going to start calling it for brevity). Although there I still a pressing need to address many of the traffic, access, and safety issues along the BCFS, we at least can now approach them with adequate planning and discussion. Stories of a 2015 Pattullo replacement now seem a little premature, with TransLink suggesting 2020 as a more likely time frame, yet a slide at the TransLink presentation on Thursday that suggested 2017-2018… let’s agree to call TransLink “non-committal” on the Pattullo timing, but at least we know we are likely a couple of years from the consultation process. That would indicate we have a couple of years to plan for that.

I would like to have a community conversation about the Brunette Creek industrial area, and how we can provide adequate access to the important businesses there without burdening those same businesses with commuter through-flow (the inevitable result of the UBE proposals). I think keeping the Bailey Bridge as one-lane alternating is a good control on through-flow. I also think that closing the level crossing at Braid would provide safety benefits and simplify the traffic situation at Braid and Brunette. (Note I don’t think it will reduce congestion, because I am strong believer that induced demand is the major control on traffic congestion; the smoother we make the flow, the more cars that will enter the flow, until the congestion reaches a point of equilibrium). This leaves us with only one other way out of Brunette Creek: Spruce Street.

Currently, one can enter Spruce Street from northbound Brunette, and can exit northbound on Brunette from Spruce Street. To connect Spruce Street to southbound Brunette, I would suggest an underpass beneath Brunette, with entrance/exit ramps on the west side of Brunette that essentially mirror the ones on the east side. A single light-controlled intersection at the underpass. This moves trucks down where the noise will have reduced impacts on the surrounding neighbourhoods, and makes the biggest ingress-egress point from the industrial lands nearer the center of the industrial lands, but a long way from the Bailey bridge, to reduce the attraction of commuters to the industrial area. Clearly, this approach will need to take into account the current development plans at the Brewery district, but there is nothing in the ground there yet. By using this to close the Brain level crossing, the Federal Gateway Money should still be available, as this meets the same rail safety improvements as the UBE (which, notably, also included maintaining the Spruce Street level crossing).

Click to enlarge – and please excuse ham-fisted CorelDraw use

I don’t want to spend too much time on the details, because that is what these things are: details. Before we start fleshing out details, we need to make the big decisions: How will our City address its traffic problems? How will our City adapt to regional and internal growth as projected by MetroVancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy? How will we accommodate a new Pattullo Bridge? How will we address the pressure our City will see from the Highway 1 expansion? How will we support TransLink’s goals for mode shift as outlined in their Transport 2040 plan? How will we adapt our transportation infrastructure to deal with Climate Change, with Peak Oil, with an aging population? How will we protect the livability our City’s neighbourhoods, from Sapperton and Downtown to the West End and Queensborough?

The proper way to address these questions is through the City’s Master Transportation Plan. Fortunately, that planning process is starting right now. So the opportunity is in front of us.

I am hoping to take a lot of the blogging energy I have been putting into the UBE, and direct it towards addressing those questions. I don’t pretend to have the answers, and don’t expect to find them on this Blog. I think the answers have to come from the community, and it a pretty big order to fill. I only hope to open a dialogue and help find our way towards the answers. Make no mistake: this is important, even more important than the UBE. The Master Transportation Plan will shape our City for the coming decades.

Climb on board, folks, it should be a fun ride.

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