An open letter to the guy driving the Grey Volks, BC Licence Plate 707 PRE.

Look, it is pretty clear our relationship go off on the wrong foot. I’m the guy on the bike you tried to kill today? In case there were more than one, I was the one on Garden City Way in Richmond.

Admittedly, there were quite a few bikes out today, it being “Bike to Work Week” and all, but I try to ride my bike in a few times every week, so I’ll probably see you again on Garden City Way, so I thought we should talk this thing out.

You see, when you tried to merge in front of the traffic on Garden City, that narrow little lane you were driving up was actually a bike lane. Notice how the shape painted on the pavement looked like the bike I was riding, and how the lane was too narrow for your car? That is why I was taking up the whole lane, riding along at 30km/h and minding my own business. I did not realize I was preventing you racing up the right side of the road in the bike lane to get a premium spot in front of the cars tolling along Garden City at 50km/h in the car lane (the wide one, no bikes painted in it). First off, let me profusely apologize for potentially causing you to be behind another car in rush hour in Richmond, it may have cost you literally seconds that you would not have been able to make up until at least the next stop light.

Since I was in the bike lane, moving at a pretty brisk pace, I was a little surprised to get honked at by someone riding my back wheel in a crappy late model Jetta or such shitbox in the bike lane. Hence, when I turned by body around to look at the source of the honk, and saw you 16 inches off my back wheel, that look on my face was one of surprise and confusion. I honestly did not understand what you expected me to do. My options were to continue to ride in the bike lane (now slower than 30km/h, as I had to sit up and look behind me to see what the fuss was all about), or, I suppose, to throw myself into the ditch and get out of your way. Although it appeared the latter was your preferred option, I didn’t really see that as the best bet for my getting home in time to make my 6:30 meeting with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

As I turned back forward, I heard the crappy little overwound 4-banger in the shitbox you lease for $150/month begin to pick up revs. Apparently, the people over in the car lane exercised some defensive driving skills (you can Google that) or became more cognizant of the importance of your mission, and moved back, permitting you to now occupy the car lane. Therefore, you felt the need to throw a few kernels on the popcorn popper you call an engine to gun past me. Not yet fully in the car lane, you passed rather close to me. And at this point, I am ashamed to admit, I might have used a swear word in the interrogative.

Lucky you pay an extra $10/month for the factory sunroof option in the shitbox, as you looked through it at me and perhaps you could hear me mutter under my breath, in the spirit of genuine curiosity: “What the Fuck?”. Note it was said with no anger, as I was, at this point, just confused by your behaviour. I had not yet managed to calculate the situation to the level where I could generate actual anger. Now, far be it from me to opine on another’s personal space issues, we only just met a few seconds earlier, but I may suggest that any time you are looking at a passing cyclist through the sunroof when that cyclist is in the bike lane, you are probably too close. Apparently, you felt this was not close enough…

Now let me be clear here. When you took that opportunity to purposely swerve your car into the bike lane and force me into the ditch, you were trying to kill me. That was, for lack of a better term, attempted murder. I evaded contact through luck, nothing else, I cannot even thank my usually cat-like reflexes, as they I have none. When 3000lbs of wheezing shitty steel & plastic at speed contacts a cyclist going 25km/h on an asphalt road with a grassy shoulder before a hard sidewalk with telephone poles and sign standards astride, the possibility of that cyclist dying is not marginal. The chances of serious bodily harm are large, the chances that I would walk away from the incident are very small. It might have also dented your car… what would that do to your lease payments!?!

You did something very stupid, for which my dying was not an impossibility.

That loud horn you heard was the guy in the Sierra Waste truck two cars behind you, expressing his surprise and distain for what he witnessed. He stopped to make sure I was OK, and was tempted to run you down. I assured him I was OK, and he should probably not get involved. When he asked why you were trying to kill me, I had to admit I had no answer. Maybe the combination of the steroids that are accelerating your male pattern baldness (the gelled spikey hair doesn’t hide all) and the daily low-level exposure to Aqua Velva was rotting your brain. Or maybe you are just a dangerous asshole who shouldn’t be allowed to operate machinery.

Anyway I have your car type, I have your licence plate, I saw your dumbass visage through the sunroof, and I have the contact info for the guy in the Sierra Waste truck, whom I will not name, but will only refer to as “willing eye witness”. I will be meeting with the Richmond Police tomorrow. I do some work with them, pretty conscientious guys and gals for the most part. I know a few members who like to ride bikes. Maybe I’ll show up with donuts.

Oh, and now that I have done the math and discover anger is an appropriate response, I should let you know. If you come back to your crappy leased financial burden with licence plate 707 PRE one day, and find someone has unthreaded the valve cores from all four tires and your air vents smell of urine? You will know I noticed your car parked there and left you my calling card. Smells better than Aqua Velva.


The Chamber and Council respond…

A couple of developments have occurred since last week’s “dialogue” on the Pattullo Bridge that I found so unsatisfying.

The President of the New West Chamber of Commerce, Andrew Hopkins, provided an on-line message that sort of clarifies the Chamber’s position in these discussions. I say “sort of” because the Chamber doesn’t really take a strong stand on the future of the Pattullo (unlike the Surrey Board of Trade), but instead acknowledges that there are differing opinions and that the Chamber has some work to do, gathering information and arriving at a position that fairly represents their members.

This is both a reasonable and appropriate response, and I applaud the Chamber for taking the cautious approach, appropriate for a project of such magnitude. Again, the model here should be, as Jim Lowrie has pointed out at the recent meetings, “Debate then Decide”, not the other way around.

As such, we can re-characterise last Thursday’s meeting as the New West Chamber hearing one side of the story- that of the Surrey and Lower Mainland Boards of Trade.

I wouldn’t be NWimby if I didn’t also point out in irritating detail the concerns I have in the release by Mr. Hopkins. My criticisms of the Chamber Dialogue last week stand: it sort of failed as a forum to share differing ideas, there were no “varying perspectives” presented. It was instead the Surrey Board of Trade, City of Surrey, and TransLink telling New West what was good for Surrey, without even acknowledging what might be good or bad for New West. I hope the Chamber will seek out and give fair audience to the other sides of this discussion before coming to any conclusions on the Pattullo.

Anyone who sat through 2+ hours of Elizabeth Fry-related delegations at New West Council last night also heard Council pass a resolution (moved by Councillor Puchmayr) asking that New Westminster businesses be consulted by the City regarding the Pattullo. To hear Puchmayr call some of the comments by the Surrey Board of Trade “shocking” was promising. In fact, many of the points I raised last week also came to the fore in this week’s Council meeting, with our Council raising concerns about why Surrey’s business community seems to be setting policy for the City of New Westminster.

I feel much better just hearing that our Council was just as concerned as I was coming out of that meeting. Which brings me to the thesis of what was discussed at the Chamber Dialogue, summarized effectively as the final paragraph of Mr. Hopkins’ note from the Chamber:

Traffic is increasing and there are more and more buses, trucks and cars on the roads. The cost of congestion for the region’s economy is estimated at $1.3 billion annually. We must address our transportation infrastructure today for the sake of our tomorrow.

I can take this line by line:

“Traffic is increasing” is not a stand-alone phenomenon: it is not an unavoidable force of nature like the tide, nor is it the inevitable result of increasing population and economic growth. It is one possible result of the decisions we make today, and not necessarily the best one. The only way it is inevitable is if we believe it is inevitable, and attempt to build our way out of it. We don’t have to look very far to find examples of this.

Between 1991 (the first census after opening of the full SkyTrain system) and 2006 (the most recent census for which data is fully available), the City of Vancouver grew in population by 22%, and increased the number of jobs by 18%. Over the same period, the number of automobiles entering the City every day went down by almost 11%. Why? Largely because Vancouver resisted the urge to build freeways into the core of the City, starting with the East Van Freeway being cancelled in the 1960s, and continuing with the refusal to increase the lane count on the Lions Gate Bridge a decade ago. Yet Vancouver still has more than twice the number of jobs of Surrey. Economic and population growth without automobile growth is not just possible, it is demonstrable.

“there are more busses, trucks, and cars on the roads” This is verbatim the way the Board of Trade talked about traffic on the Pattullo, but the order those parts of the traffic system are mentioned belies the reality of the situation. According to TransLink, there are 3,500 trucks a day crossing the Pattullo, and exactly 11 busses a day that cross the bridge (all operating at night, well out of peak congestion times). Compare this to 56,800+ cars. So let’s stop kidding ourselves: busses are not the problem here, when we are talking about congestion, we are talking about 94% of vehicles on the bridge that are neither trucks nor busses.

”The cost of congestion for the region’s economy is estimated at $1.3 billion annually” This is a number that is repeatedly dragged out by Gateway Program proponents to justify the spending of tens of billions of taxpayer’s dollars to build freeways. No-one ever cites a source for this very large number, it is just part of the numeric folklore of British Columbia politics. You can find it, without citation, here, here and here.

Coincidently, this is the same amount of “money” that congestion annually costs the state of Colorado, the cities of Moscow and Melbourne, and the amount that Chicago could “save” just be reducing congestion by 10%. But where does this number come from in BC?

Best I can tell from my extensive research Googling is this report by Delcan, completed in 2003. The “$1.3 Billion” number seems to be based on a growth projection to 2021, based on conditions in 2002, and estimates of anticipated “congestion” on the roads, in the rail system, and at the ports resulting from that projects growth. The report sees the replacement of the New Westminster Rail Bridge as the biggest regional congestion issue.

Interesting to note this report was written long before the Port Mann 2 and Highway 1 expansion, before the Golden Ears Bridge and the South Fraser Perimeter Road and Pitt River Bridge doubling (all told, $6 Billion in road expansion since this report). There is also major Port expansion at Vancouver and Delta on line right now. Yet the rail bridge pinch point of so much importance is not yet addressed.

The $1.3 Billion number is a vestige of roadbuilders’ dreams from a decade ago. To use this report to justify expanding the Pattullo Bridge is simply dishonest. One thing we know for sure is that the Pattullo Bridge is not currently costing anyone $1.3 Billion a year.

Oh, and interesting aside from that report. In 2002, the best option for the Pattullo going forward was apparently a combined road and rail tunnel connecting McBride to the South Fraser Perimeter Road under the Fraser River, proposed to be funded in whole by the Feds for $1 Billion. Guess that option is off the table now…

“We must address our transportation infrastructure today for the sake of our tomorrow” Yeah, that sounds kinda right. Except that I would rather say we need to build the transportation infrastructure for tomorrow, instead of building the transportation infrastructure of yesterday.

Pattullo Bridge: Giving New West the Business

Minor edits to clean up some language issues…

This last Thursday, I attended the “Pattullo Bridge Business Dialogue” at the Fraser River Discovery Centre. I am not a business owner in New West, nor am I member of the Chamber, so I went to listen and learn. Or as some would call it, “document the atrocities”.

The event was well attended by representatives from both sides of the River. The NDP Transportation Critic (and MLA for Surrey Newton) Harry Bains was there, as were four New West City Councilors (Harper, McIntosh, McEvoy, and Puchmayr) and two Surrey Councilors (Linda Hepner and Barinder Rasode). I also noticed Paul Forseth there, but not the other two apparent contenders for Dawn Black’s job. None of these attendees was asked to comment or provide part of the dialogue, it seemed much like me, They were there to listen and learn.

The Panellists were Sany Zein, Director of Roads for TransLink and no stranger to community meetings in New Westminster; Jim Lowrie, the Director of Engineering for the City of New Westminster; Bernie Magnan, long-time Vancouver Board of Trade apparatchik and Transportation Panel member from the Lower Mainland Chambers of Commerce; and Paul Lee, who is a Transportation Manager from the City of Surrey.

Sany Zein essentially repeated the message we have seen sine the beginning of the “consultations” on the bridge a few months ago. There was little new here, including a few zombie topics (points that have been questioned in New West in the past, but keep coming back) like the interesting math equation “(50% more cars + 100% more trucks) / 50% more lanes = less congestion” or the assertion that TransLink is spending “millions of dollars a year” on maintaining the Pattullo.

If we were to summarize the Translink message it is this: These decisions have been made, so there is no point discussing it; which makes me wonder why they even bother wasting staff resources on attending these “dialogues”.

Jim Lowrie then presented a bit of info about New Westminster’s concerns regarding a 6-lane bridge, and the lack of consultation on the important points around bridge size and location. Mostly, he was repeating the information from the Open House the City held last month, while also outlining some of the public discourse in the City about the bridge. I even heard him (in his summary) suggest that TransLink first has to recognize that the problem they are trying to solve is an aging bridge (not sure where he got that idea!) and that once they identify their problem, they should come to New West to see what our problems with the existing bridge are, then go to Surrey and find out what their problems with the existing bridge are, then have discussions to address all of the problems at once: and that this dialogue should have started years ago. A very rational approach.

Paul Lee read a short, concise prepared statement, seemingly directly from the desk of Dianne “build-it-they-will-come” Watts. A few of the key points I managed to jot down: A well-functioned multimodal Bridge is a vital part of the transportation infrastructure required to service Surrey. A new 6-lane bridge must be directly connected to the SFPR, to minimize trucks on City Streets, and to provide access to local businesses.

Of course, the concern that Surrey has for trucks on their City Streets should sound rather hollow to people in New Westminster… as that is our exact point here.

Bernie Mangan repeatedly referred to New Westminster as a “transportation corridor”. He boldly suggested that once the SFPR, Pattullo, and NFPR are completed, the transportation network will be “complete”, and the $1.3 Billion lost annually to traffic congestion will finally be realized. He suggested that most of the 3000+ trucks a day crossing the Pattullo are delivering lettuce to New Westminster stores, and that new industrial land has to be South of the Fraser, while people live north of the Fraser, and without a 6-lane bridge in the middle of New Westminster, all will be lost. He also hated tolls, a they hurt business, and suggested if the bridge was tolled than the people South of the Fraser would carry too much burden for the cost of a bridge that would benefit the entire region.

It was painful to watch, and I would love to go through every one of his points and take them apart, but in the interest of brevity (ha!) lets look just at that last one. It made me think about the Quebec Student protests. Let us compare these two statements, and see if anyone agrees with both:

A: The Students in Quebec should pay for most of their education, because although all of society benefits from an educated workforce, the students themselves see the greatest benefits from the Schools.

B: The drivers South of the Fraser should pay for most of the Fraser-crossing bridges, because although all of society benefits from an integrated transportation network, the drivers South of Fraser see the greatest benefit from the bridges.

My impression, overall, is that this was not really a “dialogue” at all. It was TransLink presenting their plan, a representative from old-school business and one from Surrey presenting their opinion that the Pattullo Bridge is simply the most important transportation link for the future of Business in Surrey, and Jim Lowrie valiantly trying to get someone to acknowledge that perhaps New Westminster has an interest in this and perhaps meaningful consultation would be useful for the entire region?

During the brief Q&A session, there were no questions asked that challenged the plan, or the assumptions built into the assertion that a newer bigger bridge is needed now. It was clear from the beginning (the moderator brought it up several times) that this was a meeting for “business” to exchange ideas, that only “business questions” from “business people” would be accepted, and that anyone in the audience who did not own a business should just shut the fuck up. There is nothing inherently wrong with this (hey, it was their meeting- they paid for the coffee and cookies), but what is the point of calling it a “Dialogue” when it is just everyone sitting in a circle talking about how much they agree?

At least twice, it was clear Surrey came to town to tell New West what’s what. Mr. Lee mentioned more than once that the only thing more vitally important than a new 6-lane bridge is that trucks not infiltrate local Surrey roads and negatively impact the liveability of Surrey neighbourhoods (and yes, he said this with no apparent irony).

Probably the most pointed question was “How does New Westminster expect Surrey to businesses to operate without this vital link?” – yet no-one from New West stood up and asked Surrey businesses the same question about how they will operate their businesses when their streets are choked by even more traffic? In fact, during the “Dialogue”, I did not hear a single comment from the New Westminster business community. I didn’t hear anyone from New West explain how this transportation link was vital to their business, or ask what the impacts to New Westminster businesses would be. Where were you, New Westminster Chamber?

When Mr. Zein suggests that increasing lanes 50% and increasing traffic 50% will result in less congestion, why did no-one ask him to square that circle?

When he suggested that “Millions of dollars a year” are being spent on Pattullo maintenance, why did no-one call on him to provide some evidence of that?

Was no-one in the room interested in anything but the old school orthodoxy that more cars = more customers = happier business?

All along, Chris Bryan’s column in the NewsLeader this week was fresh in my mind. This “dialogue” was a perfect example of the Old vs. New for New Westminster and the Business community. These guys sitting in their bubble with a myopic vision of the business world of the 1900s have no idea what is happening in the year 2012.

The problem is, at least they showed up and enjoyed their echo chamber. Where were the “New” New Westminster business community at this event: those who are moving to Downtown and filling up the River Market because of the increased liveability of our downtown and our transit access, those who attend NEXTNewWest events? But it was 10:00 on a Thursday morning, they were probably working.

With all due respect, old school, if the future of your business in New West relies on 400,000 people driving by your storefront every day, and 700 empty parking spots in the waterfront Parkade, then your future looks cloudy. And Chamber of Commerce: if your idea of Dialogue is to only talk to yourself and to ignore the voices of the rest of the community – of your own customers – then all of our futures are cloudy.

Unless the New Westminster business community grows some balls and gets involved here, we are going to end up being nothing more than Surrey’s “Transportation Corridor”.

Political non Science

Although I have always been rather political – much to the chagrin of my Grade 5 teachers – I somehow ended up a scientist. That is what I studied in school, and what I have done for work for neigh 15 years.

My political views have changed quite a bit since my teenage days campaigning for the burgeoning Reform Party of Canada, and I suspect a large part of that change has resulted from my science education (if not from losing way too many debates to people with more book learnin’ than me).

Recently listening to one of my favourite podcasts, they were discussing the role of science in modern politics, or more specifically, how hard it is to base policy on even very well-established science (think anthropogenic global warming, harm-reduction drug policies, mandatory minimum sentences, etc). The problem, this group of scientists suggested, was too many lawyers.

Yeah, sure, it is easy to blame Lawyers, but they provided a foundation behind why Lawyers interpreting science is a problem. But first, are there too many lawyers?

This might be a bigger issue in the USA, but looking at our house of commons, there is a distinct paucity of people trained in the Sciences. The precise numbers for our MPs are not easy to get : You can see all of their occupations here , but with pretty much every Conservative MP calling themselves a “Businessman” first, then a farmer/engineer/lawyer/oystershucker later, and every NDP member calling themselves a “Community Activist” or “Unionist” first, then some long list of occupations after, it is not clear what people’s real training and occupations are. The NDP have a “Country Gentleman” representing in one riding, for FSM’s sake.

Still, we can condense somewhat. Of the 309 MPs, at least 50 are Lawyers. Only 8 are Scientists.

I am not counting Engineers as Scientists, for all sorts of reasons that probably deserve another blog post (short version – Engineers are trained to apply the results of science to specific problems; they are not trained to think like scientists or to apply the scientific method: quite the opposite). I will be generous and not count the four Chiropractors. Generous, because just as an anti-neutrino cancels out a neutrino, people who rely on such terrible science and ignorance of evidence-based medicine as a part of their regular practice should count as negative scientists and be subtracted from the 8. But I digress.

One issue problem for governance (one discussed at length in the Podcast) is that Lawyers and Scientists use similar language, but use it in very different ways. Especially the word “evidence”. To a scientist, evidence is something you gather to see if your hypothesis can be disproven. I once wrote a long post about common misconceptions of the scientific method, and I don’t want to go that deep into it here. The point is that a large pile of evidence that supports a scientists’ hypothesis can be made irrelevant by a very small piece of very good evidence that disproves it; and scientists, by their nature and their training, are looking for and evaluating that little piece. Lawyers, in contrast, are trained to weigh the evidence, and to present a compelling case that the evidence on their side of the scale is correct, and that the evidence on the other side of the scale is less worthy.

If this sounds unfairly critical, it isn’t meant to be, that is the job of a Lawyer. Our legal process is not constructed to allow Lawyers to look at all the evidence of a case, then decide which side they wish to represent. There are valid reasons for the legal system to provide equal voice and strong advocates on both sides of a given issue, it serves a purpose well. The problem arrives when Lawyers are presented with scientific evidence, they are simply not trained to address it the way it is meant to be addressed.

The most obvious recent example of this is Anthropogenic Climate Change, where there is simply no scientific debate on the cause or mechanism of the phenomenon that is clearly being observed. Still, too many legislators get confused by the legitimate policy debate about how to deal with it, and falsely assume “there is no scientific consensus”. The “environmental” side of the political spectrum falls under the same spell when talking about scientific topics they do not understand, such as “toxins” in our food or the alleged “link” between Smart Meters and Cancer.

This week, though, we have seen another form of this intellectual deficit caused by too many Lawyers: the discussion of the Dutch Disease. Thomas Mulcair has been criticised by many political opponents for suggesting that rapid development of Alberta hydrocarbons threatens the diversification of Canadian industry; that the “Dutch Disease” may be playing a role in the downturn in manufacturing in Ontario.

The Federal Ministers of Oil Sales reacted to this by calling such talk “divisive”, while Premier McSparkles referred to the entire concept as “goofy” and “gobbledygook”. However, none of them are discussing the point, nor are they addressing what the Dutch Disease is.

I’m no economist (“the dismal science” – Thomas Carlyle), but even I am reasonably familiar with the term. At the base level, it is when a sudden natural resource boom inflates a nation’s currency to the point where other industries cannot compete on the global market due to high export costs and low import costs. It was named (well after the fact) after the rapid exploitation of offshore natural gas fields in the Netherlands the 1960s. It is interesting to note that the eponymous case is probably not as good an example of the phenomenon and other instances such as the Australian Gold Boom and the Nigerian Oil boom, but the Dutch get the credit (glory? ).

This simple description of the Dutch Disease, although perfectly condensed for the third paragraph of a wire service new report, is only part of the story. For it to truly be “the Dutch Disease”, the economic sector providing the income must be non-renewable natural resource based. There are a couple of reasons for this, but it has to do with the disproportionally low employment numbers compared to the incomes collected from the extraction activities, and the limited long-term gain from re-investment back into that specific extraction activity. The income earned by the industry must also represent a significant portion of export trade, and the economy has to be unfettered enough to allow the markets to adjust prices according to market demands. Further, the source country must receive the benefit of the exporting industry right away, and not specifically apply this income towards subsidizing the other impacted industries. There are few other nuances, but I’m sure you are bored already. I know I am.

Now, you can debate whether Canada is suffering from the Dutch Disease, or even how much the Dutch Disease is responsible for the recent manufacturing downturn in Ontario. But you cannot argue that the Dutch Disease is a “goofy” idea or “gobbledygook”. And if mentioning it is being “divisive”, then it is reality that is being divisive, not the person who mentions it. A child mentioning the Emperor’s lack of clothes is not a pornographer.

Having read into this quite a bit over the last few days, I might offer my (not an Economist) opinion on whether we are suffering the Dutch disease in Canada. Surely, all of the makers of the Dutch Disease exist. Our manufacturing sector is being impacted by our high dollar (just ask them), and our high dollar is being propped up by our oil export activities (ask those commie radicals at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce). The number of people working the Oil Sands (~150,000) is not offsetting the number of lost Manufacturing jobs (~500,000) [see above references]. Further, many of the actions taken by more progressive governments with oil resource booms (like Norway and Azerbaijan) to avoid the Dutch disease are not being taken. These would include limiting the growth of the sector, placing all of the royalties into a sealed legacy fund to spread the economic impact over a longer period of time and as a hedge against currency fluctuation, building infrastructure that is not directly related to the primary export industry, etc. (Note, shutting down the industry is not a cure that anyone, including Thomas Mulcair, has proposed).

I cannot see any reason to disagree with the Economists who were paid by the Federal Government and came to the conclusion that the Dutch Disease is impacting Canada.

One thing is for certain: if we ignore the science like the Federal Government seems prone to do, or (even worse) belittle the science like our Premier, then we are not going to make the necessary adjustments to avoid the Dutch Disease, and it will become a certainty. It’s not gobbledygook, it is basic Macroeconomics. Forget the Scientists and the Lawyers, there are more than 70 MPs who list their occupation as “Businessman” or “Businesswoman” or some such derivative – why don’t they take their own advice?

Confessions of a Pattullo Critic

Dear Ms. Myers,

Thank you for writing such a heart-felt and well-presented case for the Pattullo Bridge. You offer a genuine voice of people who use the Pattullo regularly. In community discussions about Big Things like the future of the Pattullo, people with differing opinions too often ignore the voice on the other side of the table, or worse, replace it with their own hastily-painted chariacture, whose opinion is not worth regarding… discussion is important.

So before I go on, I want to clear up one misconception about how one person (me) who thinks we don’t need to expand capacity on the Pattullo actually views the issue: I don’t want you to be “re-routed around the Royal City”. I want you to live in the Royal City. Or at least, I would rather you had better options for work, living, and commuting so the Single Occupancy Vehicle wasn’t the only option you had, or even the best option to choose. Cars are expensive, they are inconvenient, they are unreliable due to the vagaries and unpredictability of traffic. However, as you demonstrated, a car somehow became the best option for you. That is not your failure, that is a failure of infrastructure and community planning, failure of a hundred decisions made by people other then you.

Now I realize that last paragraph has me sounding like a radical anti-car nut with my head in the clouds, or even a holier-than-thou eco-facist, but let me try to convince you I am not. I own a car. Sometimes I use it to commute to work, a single occupancy vehicle when I do. I have cursed the intersection at the north end of the Queensborough at 7:30 am as much as anyone in this town. I know a couple on New West who commute to opposite ends of MetroVancouver daily, have two kids, and lives full of volunteer commitments, and do this without owning a car. I am not nearly that dedicated or organized. I make different choices, sometimes using transit, sometimes riding my bike, sometimes driving my car.

The problem with the car choice is that cars are bad for us. They make us less healthy, they make our cities less healthy. They cost us lots of money, they take up a disproportionate amount of our valuable urban space, and they damage the environment disproportionally with the benefits they deliver. They are by far the #1 cause of death for school-aged children in North America. They are, by almost any measure, a bad choice, yet here we are, both of us, and 400,000+ other people, making that daily choice to drive through New Westminster; all for good, rational, considered reasons. How did we get here? But first, why should anyone care?

“Increased traffic” is not a side effect, as you suggest, it is the main effect. The continued renaissance of New Westminster is not going to depend on a few of the 400,000+ commuters stopping to pick up a few groceries or noticing a new boutique on the way by, nor on 700 people filling the empty Waterfront Parkade spots. In the hierarchy of car-oriented retail, we will never compete with Coquitlam Centre, Lougheed Mall, or even King George Highway. Those days are gone: left New Westminster on the 60s, and are not coming back.

The future of New Westminster is in re-developing an urban environment where people want to live, work, shop and play. The 10,000+ people who live downtown, and the 500,000+ who are truly 20 minutes away by SkyTrain. For us to realize this future, we need a variety of good shops and entertainment opportunities (and that is coming along very nicely), and we need to produce a friendly, clean, safe environment inviting to people, not a space dedicated to the movement of cars and trucks. You know, a “fantastic place” to be.

You outlined the decision process that led to your workplace – home -commuting choice. Part of that choice of that was a cognizance of how long it would take you every day to drive to work. I have no idea how long it takes you, 20 minutes? 40? I will bet it is less than an hour. People who study commuting behaviors know that would be a safe bet, because very few people willingly choose to commute for more than an hour a day, regardless of the mode they choose. That has been true for centuries, and actually has a name: the Marchetti Constant.

As an aside, there is another factor here as well, and that is failed expectations. Especially when home-shopping, if we find a place we like, we tend to sell ourselves that the commute won’t be so bad. We often think of “central” as (to quote the radio ad) “20 minutes from everywhere”. Problem is, when driving in Vancouver, we are rarely 20 minutes from anywhere.

As an example, Tim Hortons are ubiquitous in this town, but if you stood up right now, got your coat and your hat, grabbed your car keys, walk to your car, wherever it is parked, get it started, drive to the nearest Timmy’s, find parking nearby, park, and walk to Timmy’s, (or sit in the drive-thru line, ugh) I’ll bet you the price of your doubl-double it is more than 20 minutes before you take your first sip. (Not fair to say “but I can walk to a nearby Timmy’s in 5 minutes”. Actually, if you say that, you are making my point that we unfairly justify the convenience of cars).

Back to the point, if your daily drive to work took an hour and a half each way, you would be much less likely to make that choice, to find that combination of home, work, and lifestyle acceptable. You would instead choose another home, another job, or another mode of travel. If that same trip takes 20 minutes, you are more likely to make that choice. This is, boiled down to the substance, what traffic planners call “Induced Demand”. This is the reason many people (including me) are afraid of the impact to our City of an expanded Pattullo Bridge.

The bridge now carries 60,000 or so cars per day. TransLink estimates a 6-lane bridge will carry 90,000 or so. Those extra 30,000 will be people who choose to use the bridge because it is the easiest, most convenient route. This choice will mostly not be made when they get into their car in the morning and turn on the traffic radio, but will instead be made the way you described it: when people are shopping for homes and doing that complex calculus about commute times, yard size, amenities, and price per square foot. Nothing makes that decision easier than the promise of a big new bridge that will solve traffic congestion problems once and for all. Hence “demand” for traffic lanes is “induced” not by bumper-to-bumper traffic lanes, but paradoxically, by the promise of empty traffic lanes.

Except, of course, the bigger bridge will do nothing to improve traffic congestion. Simple math says 90,000 vehicles cannot cross a 6-lane bridge any faster than 60,000 can cross a 4-lane bridge. Traffic will, as TransLink suggests, increase until the same state on congestion is reached as exists now ( see Marchetti Constant above). Of course, this will be limited slightly by the increased congestion on the surface roads on either end (see the Braess Paradox), not too mention that they really can’t be built to accommodate the increase. If they are, you can kiss that Livable City goal goodbye.

The promise of solving congestion by building lanes has always proven false in the past, there is no reason it will be proven true in this one case. This is why it is frustrating to hear people opine that New West has always been a “speed bump” where traffic grinds to a halt. The implication is that if we just build more lanes through New West, that problem will be solved. However, we can never build enough lanes (and if you don’t believe me, spend some time on Lougheed Highway anywhere it has seen recent expansion – if you have a few hours to spare).

Yikes. Went off on a lecture there. Let’s bring this back down to earth.

Your article shouldn’t be a “confession”, as that implies you have done something wrong. You made rational choices for yourself and for your family, with many of the confounding factors not within your control, what is wrong with that?

I ask you only to consider carefully what you want when thinking about the future of the Pattullo. Do you want a bigger bridge, or do you want a shorter commute, more predictability of travel times, and more time to spend with your family? Are you sure a bigger bridge will provide the things you want? Perhaps spending the same $800 Million on improved transit South of the Fraser, so people in Surrey have the same access that New Westminster enjoys, is more likely to address traffic issues on both sides of the Fraser. If nothing else, it will “induce” some of those 60,000 drivers to choose transit instead of the single occupancy vehicle, resulting in less of those negative affects cars bring to our communities.

Let me finish how I started, by thanking you for your article. Yours is an important a voice in the future of the Pattullo as is mine, or anyone else’s; We need the entire community involved in this discussion. But first, we need to convince TransLink that there needs to be a discussion. As things stand, TransLink has made a choice based on short-term thinking that contradicts their own master planning document , and the modern science of Transportation Demand Management. The results of that bad plan could make my home, New Westminster, a much less pleasant, more expensive, and less safe place to live, while failing at the promise of making your commute slightly shorter. Worse, their “consultations” have not included any real discussion of options or the needs of the community.

I happen to agree with you: tearing the bridge down is an extreme position, but so is building a bigger bridge and dumping that unsustainable traffic load on a City trying so hard to be a modern, compact, transit-friendly community. Presumably, somewhere between those two extremes is a viable compromise.

All I have heard New Westminster ask for up to now is a true consultation: the very conversation we are having right now, and that the decision on the fate of the bridge, the compromise, be based on what the Community decides. “Debate then Decide”, to borrow a phrase from the recent City open house.

Let’s hope your voice, and mine, will be heard by TransLink, and the Community makes the right decision.

Great weekend (Signs of the Queensborough revisited).

Wow. What a weekend. Great weather, fun evenings with friends, a whole lot of gardening, Ryder leading the Giro. I’ve been too busy enjoying life to post my gripes.

So I saved them all up for Sunday Night.

Interesting event #1:
I went to a local retailer, who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons. There was a big multinational chain nearby I could have gone to, but I like to support the local guy. I bought a dozen items, he gave me a deal on a few, gave me some advice on some others, general good customer service experience.

But while I was shopping on my own, I overhear the proprietor talking about gas prices with another customer. The general consensus was that they were being screwed, and the best solution was to use their big Tidy Tank to gas up across the border. The proprietor didn’t see the irony in the conversation.

Interesting Event #2:
Went to a movie on Friday Night: the Avengers at the Landmark Cinema at Plaza 88. I came out of the movie wondering why everyone was fighting everyone else, and why, the minute the portal to the netherworld appears in the sky about New York, someone didn’t just call the Ghostbusters. Maybe I am getting too old for this stuff. The Theatre itself is what you expect in 10-screen modern movieplex: smallish rooms; comfy, new-fangled chairs; good sound (thankfully NOT turned up to 11); and a super clear, bright screen. The staff were mostly new young folks (a few trainers came in from the Landmark location in Abbotsford) but managed to handle all the appropriate transactions… uh… appropriately?

Most of the top floor of the Plaza 88 is not yet open, but things continue to evolve at this site. Not the least being the sale of the entire Plaza 88 retail complex for a cool $100 Million. More proof that we have good reason to be bully about the future of Downtown New Westminster.

Interesting Event #3:
55km in midday Sunday, crossing the Queensborough Bridge on the way home, we stopped at the north end of the pedestrian overpass. There were two clearly confused ladies standing there next to their bikes. I asked where they were headed and confirmed my suspicions when I first spied them. They wanted to get down to the Quay and the River Market, but had no idea how to get there from where they were.

It is almost exactly a year since I wrote this post detailing the issues with wayfinding around the (otherwise excellent) Queensborough bridge pedestrian and bike infrastructure. I know that original post generated discussion in the Transportation staff in New Westminster and Richmond, and with MoT and TransLink staff, and with people at VACC (now HUB) and B.E.S.T. None of these discussions have generated any actual changes in the signs at the Queensborough. It was interesting to see the lack of signage almost prevent two potential customers from reaching the Quayside (they had arrived from Burnaby).

As I suggested last year, that location would be perfect for a large-format wayfinding map, as it is where three different bike routes intersect with the SkyTrain. It would be great if these potential customers know how to get from that spot to Queensborough, Downtown, and Uptown New Westminster, instead of just turning around and going home. This type of signage would require some sort of partnership between TransLink and the City.

The signs on the bridge are ultimately MoT responsibility. I think about them every time I cross that bridge, and every time I ride my bike along Westminster Highway by Gifford (the “Casino Road”) and see this:

A big electronic wayfinding sign that must have cost hundreds of the thousands of dollars (I suspect, read: hope that the $2.7 Million price tag on the attached propaganda sign is for a larger integrated system and not just this sign). This sign has been installed less than a kilometre from the Queensborough Bridge, and installed after my whinging post of a year ago.

You would think if the Province can invest $2.7 Million on a fancy new illuminated signs, they can afford to open a bucket of green paint and fix the signs on the Pattullo?

on the MUCF, risk, and sandwiches…

The other big story last week in New Westminster has been the City’s decision to move ahead with the development of a primo Class-A office tower on top of the MUCF, despite the loss of the developer/funding partner, Uptown Property Group.

Part of why I have been so reluctant to comment on this issue at length is that I don’t know enough about the discussions behind how this decision was made, the foundations of this being Real Estate Negotiations, much of it is (perfectly legally and legitimately) done in camera.

I have talked to a lot of people about this in the last week, have watched the online coverage of council, and listened to a lot of the rhetoric. Of course, no knowing what the real back story has not stopped a whole bunch of people twittering up a storm about how this was the Final Betrayal of this Council, and one particularly excitable individual even suggesting we need some sort of Recall Initiative for the 4 councillors and the Mayor who voted for this (an initiative idea which does not, I note, exist under the Local Government Act.)

Almost all of the rhetoric we have heard about this in the Social Media has been, lets say, factually challenged. So now that I am adding my idiocy to the mix, I should probably admit up front I am no more or less informed that any other random schmuck spouting off about this. Still, here is the way I see this:

The City has a big hole in the ground Downtown, and has a limited time to use $35 Million of “Casino Money” to fill it. The meat in the MUCF burger is the large Civic Complex, which will cost $41.5M to build. On piece of bread is $12.5 million worth of underground parking (which is a whole different topic worthy of discussion, but I’ll note even the most strident conservative has yet to complain about socialist parking, unless it is pay parking, which is somehow too socialist). The top piece of bread is $33 Million worth of aforementioned Class-A office space. The pickle on top is $7 Million in “office improvements”, to make those offices actually leasable. That adds up to a $94 million sandwich of woe.

All figures in Millions of Dollars.

The second side of this equation is how we are going to pay for it, and this is where things get a little fuzzier. The first “up to” $11Million is to be borrowed from the Municipal Finance Authority to cover most of the Parking Garage Cost and shortfall on the MUCF. This agency lends money to Municipalities for capital projects at rates better than those available to private developers, so it is really the cheapest money available. $43 Million will come from the Casino DAC money (more on this later). Then “up to” $33Million will be borrowed from Capital Reserves budget (money used to upgrade pipes in the ground and potholes in streets). The “up to” $15 Million being borrowed up to cover the shortfall while waiting for DAC money to arrive is presumably part of the $43 Million, so we won’t count that again. Nor will we count the $7 Million pickle on top, because it won’t be needed until we have leases, so it will no doubt come from those leases.

Apparently, the DAC money set aside for the MUCF was not $43 Million, it was $35 Million. The extra $8 Million may be directed from other DAC-funded projects (the so-called “funding flexibility” being sought by the City). The remaining funds are $10.3 Million for the alleged pedestrian crossing between the Quayside and Port Royal, and $4 Million for dock improvements at the quayside, the rest of the DAC money already spent on those great parks and boardwalks in Queensborough, an the new community centre in Queensborough. The City is apparently looking to take $8 million of the remaining money and use it for the MUCF, at least temporarily.

I was really worried when I read this. The pedestrian link to Queensborough is a fundamental missing link in the City’s sustainable transportation infrastructure. To think that the City will cancel that project just as our new Master Transportation Plan is coming together shocked me. I vocalized my concern enough that one City Councillor took me aside at the MTP open house last Thursday and assured me that the bridge was still going to happen, there was no plan to cancel it. I have no reason to think he would lie to me, so I am taking him at his word. I assume (though could not confirm) that this $8 Million could be used to fill short-term funding gaps, if none of those “up to”s above are available, and are needed. The money is there to provide flexibility, and to give the City one more option to potentially reduce the costs of financing, as any prudent business would do. I will be the first at the gates of City Hall with a pitchfork if that bridge gets cancelled. I give them until 2015.

After borrowing somewhere between $44 Million (the $33M for the tower + $11M for the Parking) and $51 Million (if we include the $7M improvement money), the City will either own a revenue-regenerating asset, or will sell off the revenue-generating part of the building to recover their costs. We know the demand for the office space exists. Class A office space is valued north of $30/sqft per annum, and is going up. This building will generate parking and other tax revenue. It could bring 500+ more workers into Downtown New Westminster every day (or keep the young professionals moving to New Westminster working n New Westminster).

Watching council discuss the MUCF decision on the video-feed meetings last week, and hearing what the other options were, I can see where they are coming from. This project is too important to the future of the downtown to let it fall off. It is important to note that the Municipality can borrow the money at rates and with terms that no Developer can get, so the risk is lower for the City than it would be for a private developer. Also, some of the on-line discussion around this has not seemed very factual- the City is not “spending $60 Million of taxpayers money” as some commenter suggested, they are making a strategic investment that will no doubt bring some returns, if those returns exceed the investment (and we have many reasons to think it will), then the Taxpayers will make money (well, not really, taxpayers never make money, we just pay less money, I guess). This investment will also result in more taxpayers, which is what economic development is all about.

I find it disingenuous for people to complain that Government should be run “more like a business”, then freak out when a Government does the one thing that all businesses must do to survive: take a strategic risk. I hope that Council have received the business advice that tells them this risk is good. I also hope the real beneficiaries of this strategic risk – the retail businesses of Downtown New Westminster and the developers planning new buildings down there – will step up and throw their support behind this. I’m bully about the future of New Westminster, it is clear that Mayor and Council are, and it seems many developers are. I am cautiously optimistic we can make this pay off, and the result will be better than the current hole in the ground

One potential downside I can see is that this investment could potentially make it harder for the City to make other important investments in the next few years. Upgrading or fixing the Canada Games Pool, securing the Kyoto Block as public space, Queens Park capital improvements, connecting the Pier Park to amenity space east and west, refurbishing the old Gas Works site, etc. However, the City is in a tough situation. I’m not sure why they dug a hole downtown until they had an iron-clad contract with whomever was going to fill it, but again, I am so bereft of details that it is hard to understand how this situation arose. The MUCF was a good idea last month, and it is still a good idea today.

The one person I would love to have a coffee with over this is Bart Slotman, but I haven’t seen him around.

Old Steel Structures

It having already been established that the problem TransLink has with the Pattullo is not a traffic problem, but an aging bridge problem, I want to poke at the edges of that problem a little bit.

We can all agree that the Pattullo is an old steel structure. The world is full of old steel structures, many well past their design life: The Lions Gate Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, the Canadian Navy. To bring this back down to earth, I own a couple of old steel structures: my 1996 Honda, and my commuter bike. Admittedly, not as old as my other examples, but both built with the cheapest steel they could find at the price point, and in very good shape considering their design life.

The thing all old steel structures have in common is the need for maintenance. Steel rusts, so you need to get ahead of the rust. Water and salt exacerbate the rust problem, so you have to manage those corroding elements. Bare steel rusts faster, so you have to keep up on the paint. If you do these things, steel structures can last nearly forever. Even ones that bounce around in the ocean getting shot at.

On the flip side, all steel structures similarly turn to dust faster than you can imagine if the basic maintenance above is ignored.

With this in mind I took a walk across the Pattullo Bridge this weekend, and I took a camera. I ask you, does this look like a steel structure where the maintenance is being kept up?

you can click on any picture to fully appreciate the majesty.

Where they are staying ahead of the rust?

If the traffic is quiet enough, you can hear the bridge rust.

Where the paint is regularly inspected and renewed?

Where corroding elements are controlled?

Every drain on the Surrey side was plugged. Every single one. where does the water go?
…some goes into this pothole with an actual piece of rebar sticking out of it.

Or does this look like a bridge where maintenance has been ignored, and is turning to dust?

Noting inspires confidence in a railing like being able to stick your finger in rustholes.

??Yes, I am suggesting part of TransLink’s aging bridge problem is created by TransLink, themselves. Once again falling back to Hanlon’s Razor, I have to assume that this is not an intentional move, but more a result of bad planning, misplaced priorities, and lack of budget (a three-step program which is starting to sound like TransLink’s Modus operandi). That does not excuse them, though. The obvious neglect of basic maintenance is an irresponsible way to manage an expensive public asset. You own this bridge, you pay for it, and they are responsible for maintenenace. You are getting ripped off.

I was thinking maybe it is just a funding issue; that seems to be the cause of most ails of TransLink. At the “consultation” meetings that TransLink held back in February, TransLink mentioned that they spend $3 Million a year to maintain the Pattullo ( see page 4 of this document). You would think $3 Million would buy a hell of a lot of paint, or at least allow them to occasionally pressure-wash the plant ecosystems off of the steel trusswork.

This is not, unfortunately, the only place where plants are growing on the steel truss.

Except, TransLink does not spend $3 Million a year maintaining the Pattullo as claimed. That is obvious if you look at it, but more obvious when you look at their budget documents. There is a line item for bridge operations and maintenance, and it has averaged about $1.5 Million per year over the last few years (see this document). That $1.5M is spread amongst the Pattullo, the Knight Street Bridge & associated overpasses (a bridge that, I note, has a worse safety record than the Pattullo), and the old Westham Bridge (which is an old swing bridge with actual moving parts and machinery and such).

Maybe if they actually spent $3 Million a year on the Pattullo like they claimed, we could get another 50 years out of the Old Steel Structure. That would equal $150 Million, or a fifth of the cost of a replacement. We can even drop and extra $200 Million for the upgrades to make the bridge safer, and still be way ahead.

But TransLink wants a new bridge, just like I want a Porsche. My wife won’t let me get a Porsche. But maybe she will change her mind if I stop putting oil into my Honda…

City Open House on the Pattulo – Part 1

I am just starting to get back to regular life, after all the excitement of this week.

In New Westminster, there have been no less than two major twitterstorm brous-ha-ha (which I contend is the appropriate plural form of that word).

One is the announcement that the City will charge ahead with the MUCF and office tower, after their developer-partner bailed. I have had a lot of conversations with a lot of people about this in the last week, and will opine soon.

The bigger news story to me was the huge turnout by the people of New Westminster at the Master Transportation Plan open houses. Yes, there was discussion about the MTP, but (and it pains me to say this as a member of the MTP Committee) the real issue of the night was not the MTP, it was the damn Bridge. The MTP was like Larry Holmes vs. Rodney Bobick in Manila in 1975: a nominally interesting lead-in to the real show.

The meeting I attended at the Justice Institute was very well attended. The room has a seating capacity of 250, and there were not many empty seats. Apparently, the daytime meeting at the Century House was also very well attended, with estimates north of 100 people (“crowded enough to be just uncomfortable” was how it was described to me).

More than 300 people from across the City come out on a Thursday to debate transportation policy. This is why I love New Westminster.

Another reason is that this meeting was live-streamed by a group of volunteers: and that video is available for you to watch now. Got to to see the video, and thank the people who produced it.

Again, New Westminster demonstrated to TransLink what consultation looks like. The consultant engaged by the City outlined the proposal presented by TransLink, and then showed various other options that TransLink had not offered. More importantly, he talked about the myriad of things we need to discuss when talking about the future of the bridge.

First, the options.

Options 1 & 2 are, respectively, the upstream and downstream options of the six-lane bridge, as proposed by TransLink. Enough said about those. The one interesting point raised at this meeting is that this option may cost in the order of $750 Million, which is less than the $1 Billion that TransLink suggested during their initial consultations.

Option 3 is the refurbishment of the existing bridge. This would reduce the lanes to a three-lane counterflow design similar to the Lions Gate, and would cost in the order of $200Million. It was suggested at the meeting that this would result in increased congestion, but that is a debateable point. Most urban transportation experts and the experience of every other city in the history of earth suggests the exact opposite.

Options 4 & 5 are replacing the bridge in approximately the same locations TransLink has proposed, but building a modern 4-lane bridge. Order of magnitude costs for this are $600 Million. This option provides all the safety and structural benefits of the TransLink proposals, at a lower costs, and has the bonus of not causing a major shift in the traffic situation on either side of the bridge.

Option 6 involved simply decommissioning the bridge and replacing it with air. I have to admit, 6 months ago when I started blogging about this, I would have thought that a fanciful option, but a couple of New West City Councillors have mentioned it as an option, and judging by the response of the crowd at the JI (watch the coverage at 51:40, that is the loudest reaction at any moment in the presentation), I am coming around to seeing that this might be a viable starting point for negotiations, and an idea worth exploring.

This option was priced at about $40 Million. I heard it said after the meeting by a business leader in the City; “Give me two weeks, I’ll get you the $40 Million”. She might have been being facetious, but there is no doubt that money would be easily returned just by developing the land freed up by the removal of the bridge.

Options 7 & 8 are both about moving the bridge to different locations, each explored at different times in the past, one upstream at Sapperton Bar, one at Tree Island. Both of these are less compelling to me, both because they are more expensive than the Pattullo replacement ($2.5 Billion and $2 Billion respectively), and they both smack somewhat of Nimbyism. If a new bridge and more traffic is bad for New West, it is also bad for Coquitlam and Burnaby, and the resultant increase in traffic from any big bridge on our doorstep will have negative impacts on our City (see the Port Mann experience).

The consultation part of the meeting was further helped by the consultant discussing that there are factors in choosing a bridge other than lane count. He raised some interesting points about how a bridge fits into the community. A strong point is that this bridge is different than the Alex Fraser, the Golden Ears, or even the new Port Mann, in that this bridge is located in the centre of a dense urban area, and is connected to surface streets, not limited-access freeways.

One result of this is that it would be inappropriate to build the cheapest bridge possible, built by the lowest bidder. That will no doubt be TransLink’s intent, but we need to resist that intent.

When building a new crossing out in the country, this may be the approach to choose, just like if you are building an electrical switching house or a water pump station out in the country, you might put up a bland concrete box. If you are building a pump house or an electrical substation in the middle of a dense urban area, you need to incorporate design and aesthetics.

The same goes for a bridge.

If one is to build a major piece of infrastructure that will dominate an urban skyline for 50-100 years, most Cities would engage in an international design competition. There are architects and bridge designers who would love to apply their skill and talent to an iconic structure. Think of the roof of BC Place, the Vancouver Convention Centre, even the stations on the Millennium SkyTrain Line: like them or hate them, they are designed with aesthetic values, not dull pre-stressed concrete function-only structures, like the three five cable-stayed bridges over the Fraser River (if the throw the Skytrain and Canada Line bridges into the discussion).

A second point is that we need to carefully consider the transportation engineering of the bridge. Again, using the Alex Fraser, the Golden Ears, and the Port Mann 2 as examples, all are built to expressway standards. This makes sense, as they are on expressways. But if we build a new bridge in the middle of an urban area, connecting to surface streets, should it be built more like a surface street?

TransLink is likely assuming that the new bridge will be built with open wide lanes, as you would design for 80km/h or 100km/h traffic. As the roads on either side are 50km/h, the bridge will no doubt have a similar speed limit, and everyone will ignore it. If we were building a surface street, it would have curb bulges, roundabouts, a planted median, etc. to create a dynamic visual landscape, and to slow traffic.

The discussion included many other topics, including costs, traffic impacts, visual and safety impacts, maintenance issues.

Clearly, there are lots of things to discuss about the future of the Pattullo other than how the offramps will attach to the existing streets.

When they got to the point, it was this: Consultation is not TransLink telling us what they are going to build. Much like the Lions Gate process, we need to “debate then decide”, not the other way around.

So let’s get this debate started.

More Advertizing (updated)

Do you care about the future of the Pattullo Bridge
…and the impact on traffic in New Westminster?
TransLink has decided to tear down the historic Pattullo Bridge and replace it with a 6-lane bridge.  By their own estimates, this will increase the number of cars crossing the bridge by 50%, and double the number of trucks! Yet TransLink has no plans to accommodate this traffic in New Westminster. So far, the only consultation they have had with New Westminster is to ask us which flavour or offramp we prefer.
Meanwhile, the City is working on a Master Transportation Plan, to better understand the goals and visions of the people of New Westminster. Through this plan it is hoped better-informed decisions can be made about our transportation future.
The City has made it clear to TransLink that it will only support a plan for the Pattullo that fits the City’s goals. The upcoming open houses are your chance to help form those goals…with TransLink moving fast on the bridge planning, this may be your only chance (see below) to have a real say on the project that will define traffic in New Westminster for the decades ahead.
City Staff and Officials will be on hand to answer your questions and address your concerns about the Pattullo or other transportation concerns in New West.
Your voice is needed at one of these important open houses!
Thursday, May 3, 2012.
2:00pm at Century House (620 8th Street, in Moody Park)
6:00pm at the Justice Institute (715 McBride Blvd, McBride and 8th Ave ))
For more information check in on the
City’s Master Transportation Plan website:
or the New Westminster Environmental Partners website:

Edited to add: The City is now also using a new piece of social media called “Place Speak” to collect opinions on the MTP and the Pattullo Bridge. It is just starting up, but you can go there to add to the conversation. Remember, though, to make your voice really stand out, you should still attend one of the May 3rd open houses. Without support of the citizens of New West, the City is going to have a hard time convincing TransLink that a proper consultation needs to take place.