A follow up of the Knight street Bridge post

We are at the SB on Ramp from SE Marine Drive to Knight Street Bridge (apriori into Vancouver juridiction), the location is 7800 Knight bridge street according to VPD tickets issued right there…But who should get a ticket?

Who should get a ticket? the cyclist or the sign owner, Mainroad (their trailer license plate read 9552 3Y)?

According to the Vancouver Police Department, the ticket issued will look like below:

$29 Helmet fine on Knight street bridge issued on March 4, 2013

$29 Helmet fine on Knight street bridge issued on March 4, 2013 (some fields masked to preserve privacy of both the offender and police officer)

Nota: It was no movable sign, at the time the ticket was issued, but a police cruiser was parked exactly the same way. The cops, far to be ashamed to block the bike lane, were explaining it was dangerous to ride on the roadway without an helmet. No argument is necessary in such case…

Indeed it is dangerous (the most dangerous spot in Canada by the way!): Could it be the cyclists fault?

Did you see the cyclist? the semi trailer, apparently, didn’t! …but we have a bike helmet law isn’it?

The result of it, in the last 5 years,

  • 13,154 helmet ticket issued in the last 5 years [2]
  • How many ticket, for dangerous obstruction of a bike lane? [1]

[1] Is it illegal to deliberately obstruct a bike lane? apparently not in BC!

[2] Ticketed cyclists not paying their helmet fines,Mike Howell, Vancouver Courier, Sunday June 9th, 2013

Cyclist beware: We are talking of the most dangerous road in whole Canada.

According to many maps, there is a separated bike lane able to make your trip safer, shielded from street-racer (Knight street is a favorite spot for that), armada of container trucks barreling down Knight street and other intimidating traffic. Here we go:

KnightBikeLaneNarrow

If you bike can fit into the bike lane, you will have to find your way among debris and other waste, courtesy of Richmond city

The bike lane, not much wider than a bike handle bar, is supposed to be bi-directional, and shared with pedestrian:

Entering or exiting the bike lane, can be challenging:

It is hard to get on the mandatory cycle track


The bike lane is mandatory, says the sign, posted 350 meter after the beginning of the concrete barrier (in black on map): Does cyclists are really expected to jump onto the barrier?

Some cyclists will prefer to use the roadway, but most will try to use the bike lane:

The concrete barriers start at Richmond Bridgeport interchange-No indication provided to cyclist-to be on the right side of it, suppose to cycle on the Richmond sidewalk: that is not allowed!

The concrete barriers start at Richmond Bridgeport interchange: to be on the right side of it, suppose to cycle on the Richmond sidewalk: that is illegal!

  • beside jumping onto the concrete barrier, the only other option is to ride illegally the Bridegport sidewalk in Richmond

The later option is the one usually preferred by the cyclists, what tends to irate pedestrians and transit riders waiting their bus there:

  • The Bridegport sidewalk is narrow, and has bus stops

Exiting of it, is also a bit of challenge in itself too:

East side bike lane, merging to Knight Street in Vancouver: Welcome to the real world !- Where the handrail stands is the entrance of a trail joining 64th avenue: cyclists are discouraged to use it.

East side bike lane, merging to Knight Street in Vancouver: Welcome to the real world (the most dangerous intersection in Canada say the medias)!- Where the handrail stands is the entrance of a trail joining 64th avenue: cyclists are discouraged to use it.

Did you know that bike are not allowed in bus lane in BC? following the sign is both illegal (breaking with solid lane) and pretty unsafe on this exit ramp.

Did you know that bike are not allowed in bus lane in BC? following the sign is both illegal (breaking solid lines) and pretty unsafe on this exit ramp.

Riding along the bike lane is not a breeze either:

KnightBikeLaneMitchellExitW

Most cyclists fail to dismount their bike and disobey the law regarding using crosswalk (BC MVA 183.2.b ) at ramp crossing, but they still tend to stop for obvious reasons:

narrow entrance at ramp crossing, with bumper, or kerb, are the rule on Knight Bridge

That makes the ride much more cumbersome, and not any safer: gaining momentum from a standing position, require lot of energy, and attention, which is then not focused on traffic as the cyclist in the above picture illustrates.


Better practice from Lyon, France:

The example below is at the Bd Irene Joliot Curie and Bd Pheripherique Laurent Bonnevay intersection (redone when the tramway T4 has been built):

  • Cyclist are not required to stop, at each crossing, even less to dismount, what allows them to spend less time in hazardous zone, and still proceed safely:
LyonExitRampBikeLane

Lyon, FR: entry ramp: Motorist yields to cyclist and pedestrian - exit ramp: cyclist yields to motorist. The bike path hook, provide line of sight on incoming traffic. There is no bike path discontinuity


In the meantime, authorities spare no money to upgrade the roadway for motorists, and cyclist have usually to cope with that:

Sign on Knight bridge, at Mitchell Island interchange, resting in the middle of the pathway, also advertised as a bike lane.

Sign on Knight bridge, at Mitchell Island interchange, resting in the middle of the pathway, also advertised as a bike lane.

The sign had been placed by a City of Richmond’s contractor, and Translink took action to get it removed after got noticed of it

Normal people will obviously give up in face of all those inconvenience (did I mention, the snow and ice on the uncleared bike path in winter?), and the “bike to work” week, will be just that: a week! It is too bad, since it is a bottleneck which deserve much greater attention that it has, and both cycling and transit can go a long way to increase the capacity of Knight Bridge to move people

Nevertheless one can still see either

  • hardcore cyclists, all renegade breaking the law in one way or another, as seen above, and admittedly, it is the only way to cycle decently on Knight bridge
  • or eventually lost cyclists on the bridge (also breaking the law), may be mislead by some cycling maps, presenting the Knight bridge cycle tracks are the same as the Stanley park bike path!

    Cyclist, beware, don’t trust the cycling maps!

    Cyclist could be seen may be also because, taking the bus here is even a worse experience:

    The arduous trail to the Mitchell island bus stop SB: muddy in winter, dusty in summer, slippy all the time!

    The arduous trail to the Mitchell island bus stop SB: muddy in winter, dusty in summer, slippy all the time!

Infra-urbanity

December 18, 2012

Michael Green has submitted an unsolicited proposal for a multi venue art gallery [1].

(Thought he mentions that he “would like to re-open this discussion”, the comment section of his site is closed)

  • I don’t think too much of the multi venue idea (also proposed by Bob Rennie [3]); which if considered, should be region-wise, and not Vancouver centric, to bring culture to people, rather than expect people to travel to the most improbable locations to see a tiny part of what the VAG has to offer.
  • I guess the idea to build, even underground, something in Stanley park, is just plain provocative, in a try to generate some media attention: Stanley park should be a nature sanctuary.

That said, a good idea emerges: the use of a bridge for something else than transportation.

GranvilleVAG_Green

Michael green is envisioning an art gallery under the Granville bridge

The idea beyond the infra-urbanity neologism

Vancouver, is a city of bridges. One has always to cross a bridge to move around and bridges are part of the Vancouver DNA. but so far bridges have been seen only as infrastructure -we like to routinely replace- designed as pure links, like freeways, with no urban contribution whatsoever. That is, the bridge is not considered as a place of exchange or life in itself. Thought some efforts have been suggested to improve the bridge experience, they should be considered as a starting point [2]:

The Granville bridge green way proposal by City of Vancouver is an improvement on the existing layout, but as proposed, it could deprive the pedestrians of one of the Main bridge asset: the vistas on False creek

With Granville bridge, we have an opportunity, to change that, be with an art gallery or something else, in its truss, encouraging strolling on the bridge, and taking advantage of it (rain shelter) to bring the city one step forward. In that sense the Michael Green contribution, bringing the old idea of “living bridge” into the debate is welcome.


[1] A fresh vision for the old art gallery, Marsha Lederman, Globe and Mail, Dec 14, 2012

[2] see Price tags

[3] Rennie releases proposal for multi-venue art gallery system, Marsha Lederman, Globe and Mail, Dec 12, 2012

The port Mann bridge/Highway 1 was promised to be costing $1.5Billion, to be financed by toll:

  • Price has skyrocketed at more than $3.3 Billion, while the government has divided per 2 the toll.
  • The project has been initiated with forecast of 150,000 averaged daily trip. The Province has quietly revised its number to 120,000 as of today [2] , which is still greater than the current traffic seen on the bridge which is free!

It looks like the Toll revenue will not be even enough to cover the interest of the debt! [1]

The bike lanes or lack of:

The Province promised this [3]

At King Edward Street, there will be bike lanes on both sides of the road, as well as a multi-user path on the west side of King Edward Street and bike lanes on the new King Edward Street Overpass connecting Lougheed Highway to United Boulevard.

The Province delivered that:

According to the Province, there are bike lanes on both side of this street (King Edward, connecting to the Lougheed ones

In case of the benefit of doubt was buying Indulgence toward the Province. Pass a certain point, to believe a single word of the province require either an heavy dose of naivety or stupidity….and we can’t help on such beatitude toward the Province actions…and still…

Transit
The province promised this:

The Province had promised a rapid bus along the Highway one, with a transit hub at Carvolth, and another one in the vicinity of 160st

For the Surrey transit Hub, the Province delivered that:

The province delivered this in the Surrey backyard – Apparently, some people there believe it is suitable for a transit hub (???)

Thought that was happening in the Surrey backyard, Surrey transit advocates seem to have been surprised by the fact that Translink considers this HOV exit nearly useless [5]:

  • Passenger can’t safely wait on those ramps, which have no sidewalks, and no room to stop a bus without blocking the traffic
  • There is basically no decent connection with the rest of the network, no park&ride, no decent pedestrian access,…nothing

The Surrey Mayor, Diane Watts fainted to discover the problem (?) and was quick to put the onus of it on Translink. But Surrey just pay for its beatitude toward the Provincial government. Jeff Nagel has published a email from the BC transportation ministry [4]:

Q: Who decided not to build the park and ride/transit exchange at 156th Street?

A: TransLink was in discussions with several partners including the provincial government, City of Surrey and private developers on an agreement for commercial and residential development in the 156th Street area; a transit exchange would have been part of this development. No agreement was reached and development plans did not materialize.

The exchange was dependent on TransLink taking the lead position in acquiring necessary municipal and stakeholder approvals. Subsequently, TransLink intended to have the transit exchange as part of a proposed development…
that did not proceed.

Since that time TransLink has consulted extensively with elected officials, stakeholders and the public resulting in revisions to their plan.

The Hwy 1 project provides ramps for transit and HOV vehicles that allows TransLink direct access to the transit/HOV lanes. We anticipate TransLink will continue improve transit services in the region.

Q: How much money was saved by not building the transit exchange?
A: The park and ride facility was never budgeted for, so there is no cost available.

Q: How much did it cost to build the HOV lane at 156th Street – if there are no buses to use it, isn’t it a waste of money?

The on-ramps provide access to HOV lanes for all vehicles that have a minimum of two people in the vehicle.
Motorists at the 152nd Street interchange in Surrey experience extensive delays accessing Highway 1 during peak periods; the new interchange at 156th and the greater capacity of the Port Mann Bridge will ease that congestion.

The 156th intersection cost between $25 and $30 million dollars and was a partnership between Port Mann Highway 1 project and the City of Surrey.
It provides a new connection across the highway to serve this rapidly growing city, and will alleviate congestion at other intersections in the city.

Q. Why does the TICorp website promote transit access via HOV lane if there isn’t going to be any transit?

There will be transit buses using the 156th Street interchange. There will be a bus from Carvoth Park and Ride to the Surrey Central Station that will use the on-and-off HOV ramps at 156th Streets starting December 3. The #509 Walnut Grove and #590 Langley South buses access the 156 ramp.

In short:

    A restaurant sell you a 3 courses menu, but you get only two courses. If you complain about it, the restaurant’s owner wwill direct you to the cook, because himself he never intend to deliver the menu anyway…That is what the Province says

Every aspect of the Port Mann bridge project seems rotten from the root

The concept of HOV lane is in itself backward – it says that a family going to vacation, is more important than timely goods delivery- that is a $3.3 Billion economic non-sense. HOV lanes make sense to optimize an existing road infrastructure, but on new one, it should be at minimum HOT lane, and more ideally a wholly tolled freeway, on the model of the Toronto’s ETR407 (where tolls are set to grant free flow).

In any case:

  • who says HOV lanes, says car pooling.
  • who says car pooling, says car-pool parkings

Where are those car-pool parkings?

May be facilitated by Internet, car pooling has gained serious steam lately in Europe, and when infrastructure is not there- that is basically everywhere-, you will see most of the European freeway interchange approaches, surrounding important cities, looking like below:

Toll freeway/high gas price encourage car pooling, But Car poolers, meeting near freeway interchanges, need room to park their cars ! (top France - left UK (M5 near Bristol), right Germany (A8 near Munich

In fact, anarchic car pool parking has became an endemic European problem, a problem the various level of authorities address, by developing parking solution gathering the car-pooler need:

to address car pooler need, “organized” car pool parking are currently developed about everywhere in Europe.

Needless to say, the Province seems to not have put a single thought on how to develop car-pooling here. There is some good reason to it:

The Province is not interested by measure able to reduce car traffic: it needs to justify a posteriori an over sized road infrastructure:

  • car pooling is discouraged
  • bare lip service is paid to transit

What is delivered is not what has been promised by the Provincial Government…and still cost twice more than announced: Should we be surprised?


I will eventually write a post on the bus #555: As a primer, I think the service is good, frequency seems more than appropriate, so there is little grief toward Translink on it.


[1] see also Port Mann tolls will “pay all costs” of $3.3 billion project, Fraseropolis, Feb 24, 20112

[2] Traffic Forecast Review, Steer Davies Gleave, September 2011

[3] www.pmh1project.com as retrieved on November 25, 2012

[4] No stops in Surrey for Port Mann express buses, Jeff Nagel, Surrey Leader, Nov 21, 2012.

[5] See Civic Surrey and Skytrain for Surrey

Some Addendum on Nov 23, taking finding of [8]

The Clark government has decided that the George Massey tunnel need to be replaced, why?

The tunnel is congested

Of course, but how congested is the tunnel (see our bridge traffic post for more context)?

bridges traffic counts show some congestion, but nothing unreasonable in the tunnel

By reasonable standards, the level of congestion in the tunnel is manageable noticing that there is a significant amount of time where traffic is free flow. Beside the lack of substantiation, the announce, that the Delta port extension will generate an additional 1700 daily truck trips [3], has to be taken with a grain of salt:

  • It represents only 2% of the actual traffic, what the Tunnel used to handle in the past
  • It represents only 1% of the actual Tunnel capacity

The question one should asks, is:

Why we should build a new infrastructure, in the name of keeping the Deltaport truck traffic moving when this traffic could be easily shifted during non congested hour? The rather limited current Deltaport hours of operation is not allowing this today [1], why not change that?

Never mind the present (or the port),

population growth will make the tunnel congested in the future anyway?

The past trend suggests otherwise: the region has already experimented a significant population growth, which has not prevented a declining trend for the traffic into the tunnel:

George Massey average daily traffic years 1996-2011: the trend is slightly decreasing in despite of population growth in the area (number from (4)

But why people see it differently?

The Province has engineered a funnel effect at the tunnel portals, that is feeding the tunnel with more lanes than it can handle, this in the disguise of Transit investment:

A true bus lane, or HOT could certainly make transit faster than car, and reduce the funnel effect (due to lane reduction at the tunnel portal when no reverse lane is in place). (8) believes this measure by itself can allow a doubling of the transit ridership

In light of the above, one must asks: Is the George Massey tunnel replacement the best we can do to improve the lower mainland traffic?

The Clark government seems already have made his mind on it, but where are the studies and analysis supporting the replacement choice?

Is building more road the way to alleviate congestion?

Is it some other solutions?

At least two avenues deserve to be explored: better transit and road pricing, both working better hand in hand

Better transit

Currently, the transit modal share in the tunnel is nothing to cheer about:

Transit modal share Lions gate Bridge George Massey Tunnel
overall (all day all direction) > 20%[6] ~ 11%[7]
AM peak hr To Vancouver direction > 36%[6] ~ 19%[8]
PM peak hr leaving Vancouver direction > 28%[6] ~ 18%[8]

It is not better than the average mode share in the region, way far below than what is witnessed on the Lions gate bridge, and even much lower than the 2020 provincial transit plan’s target, 17% [9]. There is no reason for such dismissal modal share when a level of transit similar to the one witnessed on the Lions gate could remove enough car (~12000 per day, or 1200 peak hour NB, that is almost the capacity of a full lane!) to make the tunnel virtually congestion free. Transit offer could be much better for people coming from south of the tunnel. It doesn’t necessarily require a huge investment (Proper bus lane and queue jumper are among them) and we believe a lot can be done in the current Translink budget, some suggestion below:

A Vancouver network more accessible from the South of Fraser

First, Translink needs to recognize that not all people are heading to downtown and has to provide a larger access to Vancouver from south of the Fraser. A suggestion already made in a previous post is to extend most of the North South Vancouver bus route to either Marine Drive or Knight Bridge.

suggestion for bus route 3,16,8,20 and 100

A slight re-structuration of Vancouver bus route, can improve general access to the city from South of the Fraser

…To have them connected to a network of regional bus routes, as we have suggested before, more noticeabily a Ladner-Metrotown via Knight bridge route (we here call route #630)

A comprehensive network of regional bus line is necessary to attract long distance commuter.

A Richmond network more accessible from the South of Fraser

That is the trail, wet and muddy in winter, dry and dusty in summer, to reach the SB Hwy 99 bus stop at Steveston!


Leverage of the Steveston#99 interchange can seriously improve access to Richmond from the Ladner area

A Proper branding

Lastly, when the service level is objectively good, people need to know it. Branding is important as we have already seen with the suggestion of code sharing to create a B #699 line between Ladner and BridgePort, leveraging the existing #601 and #620 routes.

a well branded bus toward the customer base. a driver following this bus can’t really ignore where it is heading, at what frequency, where it stops and how much it cost.

Road pricing

What is the cost of congestion in the tunnel?

Phenomenal will tell some…some more substantiated studies will tell at which level a toll needs to be set to avoid congestion (That is the real economic cost). In the case of the George Massey tunnel, it is at a level such that the congestion toll need to be in effect not much more than 5hr per day, and could rise only $46 millions [2] as we have already seen in a previous post.

…that barely pay for the interest of a $1Billion debt…

Regarding the George Massey tunnel, the choice the Vancouver region should face is not “do you prefer a tunnel or a bridge as replacement” but do you prefer:

  • Pay an infrastructure toll, at all time, to help to finance a new crossing, knowing the toll will probably not be enough and taxpayer money will be required
  • Pay a congestion toll, that is a toll only at time where congestion could occurs, the toll revenue helping to finance transit alternative reducing the demand pressure for road space (see our congestion charge post for more detail)

The first solution needs 10 years time frame to be implemented and doesn’t resolve transit funding issue. The second solution, which doesn’t preclude the first one in due time [5], can be implemented overnight and resolves the congestion issue now as well as provide transit funding. Which alternative is the best?

We humbly suggest that the best alternative is the one requiring the less tax-payer and user fee money.

Additional consideration
That said, some other parameters need to enter in consideration, like

  • Structure resilience to earthquakes
  • Road safety issue
  • Marine traffic

On the later, some rumors suggest that the presence of the tunnel is limiting the possible amount of marine traffic, due to draft restriction. The Nautical chart of the Fraser river tell another story. In fact the depth along the channel is around 11 meters, 12 meters above the Tunnel.

The nautical chart doesn’t show the tunnel location as being the shallower point of the channel, in fact opening the channel to greater draft ship could require considerable dredging of the whole channel.

Allowing ships with greater draft than allowed now could require considerable dredging of the Fraser channel, from the Stevenson jetty far end to East of the tunnel, as well as significant on going maintenance, due to constant build up of sandspit. That certainly has a non negligible ecological cost as well. The economic rational of this is pretty unclear, and we notice that around the world, ports don’t seem to develop operation inland…beside barging (option here restrained by the railway bridge at New West)… since not all ports can count on a government building road for free to them.


[1] Delta port truck gate hour of operation are 7am-12pm and 12:30pm 4pm Monday to Friday

[2] From Freeway to feeway: Congestion pricing policies for BC’s Fraser River crossing, Peter Wightman, Simon Fraser University, 2008

[3] Christy Clark announces plans to replace George Massey Tunnel, VancouverSun, September 29, 2012

[4] BC MOT

[5] Congestion charge: the case for Vancouver

[6] Lions Gate Bridge / Marine Drive Transit Priority Study: Summary of Technical Study , Translink/IBI. peak hour number are extrapolated of hourly traffic graph

[7] Number are considering all ridership of bus route crossing the tunnel, as provided per Translink (BSPR 2011) and tunnel daily traffic assuming 1.2 person/vehicle, as provided by the BC MOT

[8] Highway 99 corridor assessment, draft v.1.5, Januray 2009, BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (report got thru civicsurrey.com). Notice: thought the transit numbers of this report pre-date the advent of the Canada line, they are based on a bus count (36 in peak hour/direction), which is the same as of November 2012.

[9] The Provincial Transit Plan, 2008

An Avenue in Neuilly

January 3, 2012

It is Charles de Gaulle avenue, one of the busiest European highway [16], carrying no less than 150,000 vehicles/day, which Neuilly wants to put it into a tunnel. fair enough!… but not that simple. First, the cost- a fantastic €1 billion for a less than 1.5km tunnel. Secondly, 8 to 10 years of construction. Thirdly and probably more important, arises the question of what should look the Avenue…2 different visions: On the surface…one presents an avenue with a large median while another prefers an avenue with contre allées:

A green Mall- as envisioned by Vasconi-Natale (left) or a central avenue with shared contre allee (right)

On what could be probably considered as mere cosmetics by many, the France’s Head of state, Nicolas Sarkozy carries all his weight into a battle, engaged by franc tireur Jean Christophe Fromantin, involving the Mayor of Paris and having as soldiers no less than architects like Castro, Foster or Pei….Why that?

  • Because behind an apparently benign Boulevard configuration, what is at stake is 2 fundamentally different visions of the city.

But…first a bit of context:

The geographic context

Neuilly sur Seine, tucked on the west side of Paris, between the Champs-Élysées and la Défense, and bordering the magnificent Bois de Boulogne parisian park, is the most affluent Parisian suburb.
Its Avenue Charles de Gaulle, linking Paris to La Defénse, in the Champs Élysées alignment, is part of the Royal axis, envisioned by André Le Notre in 1640.

The Avenue Charles de Gaulle in the context of the historical axis (royal way): it is the axis's westend section between La Defénse et Porte Maillot

An avenue of superlative

Nowadays this 70 meters wide avenue carries a staggering amount of traffic, ~150,000 vehicles/day [1]. That is only the tip of the iceberg: 80% of the trips occur in fact below the surface, where run one of the world busiest subway line and one of the world most busiest train line [2].

Today, Not only the avenue, but also its origin, the Porte Maillot, marking the limit between Neuilly and Paris, are a far cry to the standard their “world class” location commends:

The Charles de Gaulle avenue is treated as a freeway. On its 70 meters wide, one can count up to 20 lanes of cars (including parking)!

Avenue Charles de Gaulle is also part of the national road network (where it is then called RN13) and is considered as a strategic axis, under direct state supervision.

The political context.

Nicolas Sarkozy was mayor of Neuilly, a right-wing stronghold, before winning the presidential election in 2007, and was then carrying the burying project of the RN13 road. At the 2008 city election, he was endorsing his protege David Martinon to be his successor for Neuilly…It should have been a formality matter, but a franc tireur, Jean Christophe Fromantin came into the way, and will be elected Mayor of Neuilly (60,000 inhabitants) at the great displeasure of the Sarkozy’s clan. To mitigate the damage, Jean Sarkozy, the President’s son will be candidate, and be elected as expected, as a district councillor for a Neuilly ward. He will be vested instantaneously as the wip of his party, which incidentally control the district council (1.5 millions of people), and will be also president of the District’s Transport commission.

The Paris Regional area, like Paris is under control of the left (PS): Jean Paul Huchon is president of the Paris regional council (which oversight 12 millions people) while better known Bertrand Delanoë is mayor of the influential Paris city (2 millions inhabitant).

All of the above political actors have an opinion on the tunnelling under the Avenue Charles de Gaulle. We shouldn’t forget the still powerful prefect of Paris, Daniel Canepa, appointed by the president, and in charge to represent the interests of the “state”.
The least opinionated is may be the The president of the region whose doesn’t want to pay for it:

  • The cost of tunneling 1.5km of road, €1 billion, can also buy 8km of Express subway tunnel, and that is more inline with the regional priority.

The 2 different options

The pastoral vision

Up to 2007, it was no much discussion on what to do with the avenue, and the credo up to then could have been tunnel=park…So the general idea was that “traffic” is bad and needs to be put into the tunnel. As much as possible tunnel accesses need to be provided to this effect: That is known as the Complete burying of the avenue. The project was very Neuilly centric, and it was no consideration of the avenue context in the “Étoile-La Défense” axis. Thought that the City of Neuilly will have commissioned 2 different architecture studies, Bressac-Huet and vasconi-Natale, their work was just to be considered as informal contribution for a 2006 debate. The ‘official’ study was focusing on the tunnel not taking into account the urban environment [24]. The renderings of the project as of 2006, reflect it:

the avenue with traffic put in tunnel...allow for a large grassed median...lot of green: that is pretty much it. no bike no bus, no sidewalk coffee, not much life

The large grassed median avenue is modeled on the Avenue de Breteuil in Paris, an avenue commending some of the highest real estate price in the city. Thought it is pretty, it is also dull and lifeless.

Avenue de Breteuil, Paris: a large grassed median, ideal for its posh residential neighborhood, but also a pretty lifeless avenue

.

The tunnel exits right at the door of Paris, at Porte Maillot. traffic estimated at 200,000 vehicles

The social and economic justification of this project is basically null [18], nevertheless this pastoral vision is the one supported by the Sarkozy family.

The “global” vision

“the complete burying is a reductionist approach, taking account only the neighbors comfort”…said the Neuilly’s mayor, Jean Christophe Fromantin [25], whose think that ““kill all the traffic” is destructing value[5]. In 2008, it will expose an alternative project, then called axe13 [19], based on 2 main principles:

  • Charles de Gaulle Avenue, between Paris and La Défense, deserves an ambitious project in surface
  • It is the the surface project which is defining the quality of the urbanism project and justifying, or not, a tunnel (and not necessarily the traffic level)

Fromantin will have got the discrete and benevolent involvement of some pretty famous firms and architects before exposing the idea to public: The project is based on a less ambitious tunneling reduced to regional transit traffic only [17]-that is known as the partial burying of the avenue: Gone are the tunnel portals in the middle of the avenue, but also a much more urban avenue is proposed, which found its inspiration more in La rambla of Barcelona than the Avenue de Breteuil of Paris:

  • Tranquility of the neighbors is not the main objective anymore, the main one is to create an attractive urban space.

The project features central circulation on 6 lanes, including 2 bus lanes. Traditional contre-allee are treated as space-shared and feature numerous kiosks

Below are some configuration of the 70 meters wide avenue

The different Profiles of Charles de Gaulle avenue (profile of the Grande Armée avenue connecting to Charles de Gaulle at Porte Maillot is given for reference)

But what will buy the support of Paris [23], beyond the sweet taste of supporting a project creating the ire of the Sarkozy’s clan [20][21], is the integration of the project in a relatively “global” context:

Pont de Neuilly, links Charles de Gaulle avenue with La Défense or rather its huge intestines... the huge pedestrian mall at La Défense is virtually not accessible by foot!


Pont de Neuilly

In the early stage, the highlight of the project was at the western end of the Avenue, Pont de Neuilly, a bridge over the Seine river. Renewing with a Middle age tradition, Fromantin is envisioning to transform it into a living bridge on the model of the Hadi Teherani bridge project in Hamburg. It has been no lack of leading architect contributions, among them some from Pei or Piano : none of them catch-up with the Fromantin idea…none of them have been convincing enough so far either…

At Pont de Neuilly, Fromantin envisions a living bridge as inspired by the Teherani project in Hamburg

I. M. Pei contribution for Pont de Neuilly. The streetcar is treated as amusement park attraction: No doubt that Pei is american

But in fact, with the project maturing , Porte Maillot, connecting the avenue on the eastern edge, is affirming itself as the project’s gravity center.

The emergence of Porte Maillot

Porte Maillot: A "No man's land" marking the limit between Paris and Neuilly. Charles de Gaulle Avenue starts here (right picture is taken from it)- credit photo for right (27)

Porte Maillot has long been neglicted, not to say that its potential has been ignored by architect like Le Corbusier [11]. It is technically on Paris territory, so it can looks curious to see the Neuilly’s mayor proposing the redesign of something not under its jurisdiction, but he probably didn’t do it without involving Paris city-hall.

At the difference of the pastoral vision, in the global vision, the traffic is not feeding into Paris anymore: it is directed directly to the Boulevard Périphérique, a ring road expressway surrounding Paris – so the tunnel is not designed to be a faster way to enter into Paris: people going to Paris-Porte Maillot- still have to stay on the surface. The absence of portal unleashes the urban potential of Porte Maillot:

  • In such instance, it is expected that the residual surface traffic to be an healthy 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles/day, when 85,000 to 150,000 could travel into tunnel depending on the toll options.

In the "global" vision, the tunnel exit disappears, to darn seamlessly Neuilly to Paris, thru Porte Maillot. Current rendering (illustration from Bernard Lamy) are nothing much more than that some "towers in the park" and must be understood as testing ground

Economics for a Billion tunnel

That is certainly a Gordian knot. Clearly traditional metrics can’t justify such a project.
Thought,numerous part of the project is geared toward land lift, real estate appreciation an development are eventually estimated to generate not much more than €300 millions. Toll is another source of financing:

  • without toll traffic is expected to be 150,000 vehicles into the tunnel.
  • with a €2 toll, traffic is reduced to 85,000 vehicles into the tunnel…other vehicles finding alternative ways (a priori the study doesn’t expect a report on public transit) [6]…Toll revenue is estimated at €35 millions/year, not even close enough to cover the debt service.

Some other rationals are needed to justify it:

Branding

It is not the least of the strength of the Fromantin’s approach to have replaced this project in a global world context: Paris has to compete with London, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai…and like it or not, the Neuilly’s Avenue Charles de Gaulle sits on an emblematic axis defining Paris…and its image is not that good…

  • Victim of its success, a “Mummification” of the historic Paris at the eastern end…
  • and at the western end « this is La Défense, the office-city that nobody really likes but that has one undeniable virtue… »[12]:

La Defense, the historic axis in a Paris, as seen by Rem Koolhass (12)

Rem Koolhass, scheme captures pretty well what is the essence of the Paris metropolis. and one of it is that La Défense, long considered to be an eyeshore having nothing to do with Paris needs to be reappropirated as part and defining feature of the city, pretty much like “The city“-obviously full part of London- is.

When come branding, one can think of the Olympic games or World’s fairs to put a city on the world stage: A whole new dimension where €1 billion to define a city image is not necessarily considered as extravagant!

Some general observations.

The level of political intrigue is very high, the level of general public involvement pretty low and secret deals are the norm. It is not that the public is disinterested by urban affairs, it is, but it is just how the things have always worked in Paris:

Urban affairs have been for long a domain for enlightened dictatorship preferring confrontation to compromise…Rare Departures of it, like has been done at the Halles, have usually translated in disasters: As theorized by Haussmann, Paris is a city of Nomads and immigrantswhy ask for their opinions?…Paris belongs to France…[26] – and the most celebrated Parisian modern architecture piece, Pompidou centre by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, and Louvres Pyramid by I.M. Pei have suffered not a single input of the Paris public- architecture without compromise….But the intricacies of the french political system and public interest in urban affairs is such, that “enlightened dictatorship” in urban matter can’t exercise without a certain level of support [13] which request a ‘dictator’ with an urban vision showing breath and ambition.

The Design of a Boulevard is certainly a serious matter in Paris, but in the context of the Neuilly Avenue Charles de Gaulle, we can see it has triggered a more fundamental discussion:

  • The place and level of traffic in the city, but overall more importantly a question on the desired environment, a”pastoral” vision versus an assumed “urban” (Is all that green that good?).

It is also the tale of 2 methods:

  • Act fast versus act right

Thought, it has failed to place Jean Sarkozy at the head of the very rich and powerful EPAD- the organization controlling la Défense development- in 2009, the Sarkozy family controls all the key level of power enabling the pursuing of their vision in an diligent manner. But, because Fromantin was able to offer a strong and powerful counter-proposition, involving a dream team of architects, gathering an incredible among of support crossing a wide political spectrum (from the right wing to the Communist party on the left… and incidentally inflicting an humiliating defeat to another Sarkozy protege in a 2011 district election [15]), the Sarkozy clan has been stopped in its tracks. Now, looking clearly overwhelmed by the dimension of a project they were initially ridiculing [20][21], the Sarkozy’s seem to use all of their influence to drag it down…all for the wrong reasons:

A social note

There is little questioning in France, on excessive activities centralization and almost obscene wealth concentration [14], eventually forcing people to live far away of their work place and putting incredible stress on the transportation system. Indeed, to relieve an “overcrowded” transportation system feeding La Défense, they intend to build more of them, defacto reinforcing a vicious circle: an area becoming increasingly attractive…but eventually at the expense of many other parts in Paris…and tremendous cost of negative “branding” like the 2005 riot, and ways to address the root cause of it, don’t seem too much on the decision maker’s radar.

It is also curious to see that the very “provincial”, if not outright primitive, Sarkozy’s approach has been able to go without questioning for so long. That is certainly due to the fact that Neuilly sits outside the Historic Paris core and as much as careful attention is given to any thing occurring into the city historic limits, as less as there is concerns on what happens other side of the Boulevard Péripherique, which acts as a barrier between the historic core and its metropolitan region, as efficiently as the citywall it has replaced. General attention has started to be given to this project once people have understood it was defining Paris.

Unless otherwise noticed, pictures credit to [4] and [19].


[1] It makes the third busiest road of France, the 2 others one being freeway A1 and A6: Not even the Port Mann bridge in Vancouver area carry close to this amount of traffic. The Champs-Élysées itself carries ~85,000 vehicles/day.

[2] Metro line 1, and RER line A (a regional express train line). the extension of the RER line E is also scheduled.

[3] Jean Sarkozy will be also “recommended” as to be directing the “La Defense” administration which is the most important European Business district. This has created a public outrage, and plan has not been pursued.

[4] Debat public sur le projet de denivellation et de couverture de la RN13, 22 février au 30 mai 2006

[5] Le projet qui sème la zizanie, Constanty Hélène, l’Express, January 20, 2009

[6] axe majeur, third public meeting minutes, Feb 7, 2011.

[7] 4 teams have focused on different thematics. Focusing on business development (Deloitte-Foster), people (Fidal-Gautrand), social interaction (Francis Lefebvre-Castro) and cultural development (PricewaterhouseCoopers-Ferrier)

[8] Les projets d’aménagement de surface, Contribution to the 2006 public debate, Ville de Neuilly

[10] Paris, an architectural history, Anthony Sutcliffe, Yale University Press 1993

[11] This area got tested with the high rise idea in the 30’s: the section between the Arc de Triomphe and la defense was supposed to be developed as the Triumphal way, and a parisian properties developer, leonard Rosenthal, privately organised a consultation for the study of the architectural treatment of Porte Maillot (to be then called ‘Place de la Victoire’), which saw lot of emphasis on High rises. The government itself will have organised late 1931 another consultation which has resulted in more conservative submissions but will have not followed suite on it. The French urbanists society will recommend la Defense, rather Porte Maillot, to experiment new architecture urban form [10]…and here we are!

[12] S,M,L,XL, Rem Koolhaas, New York, Monacelli Press, 1995.

[13] Even Haussmann, failing to understand that the support of the Emperor was not sufficient, will fall on growing opposition of Paris

[14] A rare dissident opinion: À propos d’un investissement urbain à Neuilly…, François Meunier, October 14, 2009, telos. Another one is offered in [18]

[15] Jean Christophe Fromanin, gaining 70% of the vote has defeated Marie-Cécile Ménard in a 2011 district election. the later was occupying the district seat of Nicolas Sarkozy for his district seat.

[16] Les Hauts-de-Seine jugent “inacceptable” le plan d’aménagement de M. Huchon, Béatrice Jérôme, le Monde, June 28, 2007.

[17] Originally, Fromantin was advocating for 2×2 lanes tunnel with no intermediate access, and a 2×3 surface lanes boulevard, when the Sarkozy family was advocating for a 2×3 lanes tunnel with intermediate access complimented by 2×2 surfaces side lanes… To date the State administration says that the traffic prediction support a 2×3 lanes tunnel, but agree against the intermediate access.

[18] Quel bilan socio-économique pour le tunnel sous Neuilly ?, Frédéric Heran and DARBERA Richard Darbeda, Transports, no438, 2006.

[19] The initiative will be renamed “axe majeur” in the years 2008.

[20] Enfouissement de la N 13 : Sarkozy s’impatiente, Le Parisien, July 6, 2009.

[21] Jean Sarkozy: “Les études de Mr Fromantin masquent un manque d’initiative”, Kévin Deniau, L’express, July 7, 2009

[22] Neuilly taille la route vers le Grand Paris, V. Sibylle, Liberation, April 24, 2009

[23] Enfouissement de la RN13 à Neuilly: la mairie de Paris approuve le projet, AFP news via Le Point, Dec 16, 2010.

[24] Vasconi-natale will have brought some suggestion for Pont de neuilly and Porte Maillot, marking the ends of the Avenue. that was going beyond the study scope, but was already opening the idea of a treatment of the aveneu in a “Global” context

[25] Le maire de Neuilly tente une percée, Bertrand Greco, le Journal du Dimanche, June 1 , 2009

[26] Transforming Paris: the life and labors of Baron Haussmann, David P. Jordan, Free Press, 1995.

[27] blog of Brigitte Kuster, Paris XVII Arrondissement’s mayor

Congestion in Vancouver

The cost of congestion in greater Vancouver has been priced at up to $1.3 Billion per year in 2002 [1] (for matter of comparison, all combined motorist gas taxes will raise less than $800 million in metro Vancouver in 2011 [8]). Thought the Congestion numbers could look high, it is eventually not high enough to justify to invest billions of $ in new road infrastructures, which are not the most efficient allocation of capital to address congestion issues observed usually no more than 4 hrs a day.

The discussion below, grounded on a previous article as well as traffic data [6], starts of the viewpoint of what it takes to alleviate the congestion in Metro Vancouver using a road pricing model. From this conclusion, we have two questions to answer:

  • What is the most efficient road pricing model? that is what is the one involving the less overhead cost and still achieving its goal to reduce the congestion?
  • What is the better use of the money raised by a road pricing model?

Thought that in the context of Vancouver, road pricing schemes are mostly invoked to address Translink woes, it shouldn’t be the primary goal:

  • The cost of a congestion toll should not be designed to match the Translink deficit

The primary goal should be to get the most efficient use of a scarce, because expensive, resource: Our Transportation network.

The allocation of the proceeding of a congestion toll needs to be seen thru this lens:

  • What is the more efficient use of this transportation revenue stream?

It could not be always the case, but as mentioned in introduction, the general level of congestion in Vancouver, however mostly due to SOV, and the general cost of new road infrastructure, suggests it is better to invest it in the Public Transit network. This to provide alternative and efficient transportation means, able to effectively keep the level of the congestion charge under control. This option could be revisited overtime if necessary.

Pricing model

It could be discussed at length about what could be the better road pricing scheme for Vancouver:

  • Area charge (London)
  • “ideal” Road pricing (all road are priced according a complex formula and complex tracking of vehicles thru GPS…)
  • Cordon pricing (Stockholm)

The today municipal politicians mood, is to not oppose to the road pricing idea, though for some, it is to rationalize the inaction toward it: that is

Anything other that the “ideal” road pricing is not “fair” to the motorists

They could be right, assuming the implementation and operating cost of the model they call for is largely offsetted by the economic gain permitted. Considering the overwhelming complexity of implementation of such a model, and the limited amount of congestion in the lower mainland, which limit the potential revenues, it is probably wrong headed:

The model could be fair to the individual motorists, but could be unfair to the general interest: It could cost more to operate than the general economic gain it allow

..and if there is a drawback to the model followed by London, it is this: the operating cost of its pricing scheme absorb largely the economic gain expected of better traffic conditions [7].

Considering the Vancouver topography and the choke points responsible for most of the lower mainland congestion, the equivalent of a “cordon pricing” on the bridges seems the natural way to go.

It is probably the best one from benefit/cost perspective. Due to the relatively insulated location of Vancouver, we consider an all “transponder” technology (on the model of Singapore), this to limit the operation cost.

Cordon pricing Model for Vancouver

Below, is a list of the Vancouver area bridge with their number of lanes, where toll gantries could take place, to give an idea of the required gantries investment

Bridge Number of lanes Estimated annual revenue (M)
George Massey Tunnel 4 38
Arthur Laing Bridge 4 7
Oak Street Bridge 4 7
Knight Street Bridge 4 10
Queensborough Bridge 4 7
Alex Fraser Bridge 6 48
Pattullo Bridge 6 14
Port Mann Bridge 10
Lions Gate Bridge 3 15
Second Narrows Bridge 6 15
Cambie Street Bridge 6 0
Granville Street Bridge 8 0
Burrard Street Bridge 5 0

Cost: $25 Millions/year

If we consider all or part of the bridges above, we can easily see than the gantries investment is pretty limited, and should be apriori lower than in the Stockholm case, and is estimated at $100 millions. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, the geographical location of Vancouver make worthy of consideration the outfitting of at least all lower mainland vehicles (they are around 1.5 millions) with a transponder. Here we consider the outfitting of all of the 2.5 millions vehicles registered in BC:

  • Transponder investment: ~$30 millions (2 million of on board sticker at $1.6 + 500,000 exterior unit at $8)

The total initial capital cost of the system can be conservatively fixed at lower than $150 million. Assuming an all transponder based scheme, the maintenance and operating cost couldn’t be higher than the one in Singapore, and is estimated around $10 millions/year. the cost to operate the system is summarized below

Capital cost (M)
Gantries $100
Transponder $30
Annual cost cost (M)
capital Amortization (15years) $15
Operating & Maintenance (15years) $10

Revenue, ~$150 million annually

Traffic on Main bridge of the greater Vancouver area. Toll could be in effect once traffic reach max capacity of the bridge (red line), this is 4hr or less per day. in yellow example of toll fare for some bridges (see (6) for more detail)

It is probably the greater unknown of such a scheme. Based on traffic counting [6], and pricing modelization of a previous study [9], the estimated revenue per bridge is given in the above picture, and achieved by charging bridge crossing an average of 4hrs per weekday only…letting plenty of opportunities for people to move across the region free of charge.

The Impact on the transportation system

While some part of the peak hour traffic will shift toward off-peak, a signifcant part of it will shift to Transit. For this reason, one could expect:

  • a lowered revenue from Gas and parking tax : we estimate this in the tune of $20 millions loss for Translink
  • a significant demand increase for Transit : based on the Stockholm experience, the congestion charge could be responsible for an increase of 10% in Transit usage [2]

Whether there is an impediment to the implementation to a road pricing scheme, it is not as much the implementation cost or the effectiveness to reduce the congestion as seen, than the capability of the transit network to absorb the modal shift involved by a congestion pricing scheme.

In that aspect, the relatively low public transit usage in the Vancouver region, compared to other jurisdictions which have introduced a road pricing scheme, creates certainly some challenges for Translink:

For that reason, as well as political acceptance, a significant Translink service extension could be required, and that means the $70 million moving forward plan, could be only a starting point in transit increase.

On the other hand, the congestion reduction will help to increase the buses productivity, while that the increased demand will improve the fare-box revenue.


With a congestion charge, this bus could be probably travelling twice faster, and offering twice the frequency – so dramatically improving the service to transit customers- this for virtually the same operating cost. Same could apply to the truck industry.

In Brief

After deducting operating cost and infrastructure amortization, as well as accounting the lost revenue in gas tax, the congestion charge could generate a revenue of $100 millions/year for the Translink coffers.

The lost of gas revenue affects also the Provincial and Federal Government, but one can fairly assume that this is more than offsetted by lower healthcare cost, due to accident reduction, reduction of greenhouse gas emission as well as more active living style associated to public transit use…

From it $70 millions could be already earmarked for Translink extension program as stated in its “moving forward plan”, but due to the effect of the congestion charge, such plan could prove much cheaper to implement.

That lefts extra money to address other woes in the transportation network, like on Broadway.

When to build new road infrastructure?

After good but reasonable alternative transit has been provided and the toll price need to be at a price point considered too high to alleviate congestion: it is time to question the need for new infratsructure…But when the revenue of the congestion toll could not even cover the debt service of a new infrastructure: it indicates not only there is no need for that, but that it is a bad investment if the matter is to address the congestion. That is eventually what illustrates the table above.


The Pattullo bridge congestion toll needs to be priced at a point where it raises “only” $14 million to alleviate the Congestion on it:
the debt service of a new $1 billion bridge could be anywhere north of $50 million…

Where Translink stands?

  • Mayors of Metro Vancouver have already spent money on road pricing studies [4]. They are apparently not publicly available, but it is not like there is no material around.
  • Some mayors of the region have explicitly called on a road pricing scheme, which is also supported by a host of influencal people, like Translink commissioner Martin Crilly or former premier Mike Harcourt and Dale Parker [5], as well as organization like the Surrey Board of Trade
  • Mayors of Meto Vancouver has explicitly expressed the request to fund transit on transportation based revenue source only

Considering this favorable environment for a road pricing scheme.

  • Why Translink has been unable to come with nothing better than a 2c gas tax?

It seems the main obstacle to a road pricing implementation strategy is now Translink itself: it should have at least put on the table such an option as a base for discussion.

That could help to clarify all the points raised in this blog, eventually debunks some myths …but unfortunately it is not the route chosen by Translink so far…


[1] this number could look suspicious, since pretty much at odd with the one provided by Statistic Canada, but it is the one used by our government to justify investment in road infrastructure ( Canada pacific’s gateway ) which not only include time lost in congestion but also extra burnt fuel and cost of GHG, so it is only fair to use the same metric.

[2] The introduction of the congestion charge in Stockholm has translated in an increase of 5% of transit usage ( Transport planning in the Stockholm Region, Hans Hede, METREX International workshop, Moscow, June 2006 ), but the modal split was already at 30% for public Transit. It is at 16.5% in metro Vancouver.

[3] That is at least the opinion expressed by the Mayor of Richmond.

[4] GVRD votes to continue study of road tolls, The Province, February 25, 2007

[5] Opportunity for Metro Vancouver transit foundation is now, Mike Harcourt and Dale parker, Vancouver Sun December 7, 2010

[6] Traffic to downtown and traffic on Metro Vancouver’s bridge

[7] The London congestion charge: a tentative economic appraisal, R. Prud’homme and J.P. Bocarejo, Transport Policy Volume 12, Issue 3, May 2005, Pages 279-287

[8] 29.06c provincial tax including 15c Translink tax + 10c federal tax per liter. number from Ministry of Finance Tax Bulletin as in June 2011

[9] From Freeway to feeway: Congestion pricing policies for BC’s Fraser River crossing, Peter Wightman, Simon Fraser University, 2008

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