New West Besieged by Translink

April 13, 2011

as you could now, Translink has decided to funnel more traffic into New Westminster, by planning the extension of United Boulevard to Sapperton, and is planning 2 workshops, one tonight: you will find all backgrounder information on the Translink buzzer blog.

While cities around the world are reconquering their waterfront for the good of their citizen, Translink has a very different plot for New Westminster. credit Photo (5)

You will also find reasons why this project makes no good sense at the local blog TentotheFraser and NWEP… and you will find the case against the United boulevard extension very well articulated in a letter to Editor to the local News Westminster leader [6].

we will not reiterate the very compelling reasons against the case but just focus on the Translink arguments.

Traffic projection

First, we have to keep in mind that

  • Translink has grossly over estimated vehicular traffic on the Golden Ears Bridge…the cost of this mistake is $30 to $40 million shortfall in revenue…. ironically the exact amount required to fund the Evergreen line
  • Translink has under estimated the ridership on the Canada line, since we are 2 to 3 years ahead of the projection

That said in despite of a model biased in favor of cars, Translink has hard time to show an increase in traffic in the near future on the United Boulevard, the given explanation is

Existing traffic volumes at some points are the same as 2015 traffic volumes. Some reasons for this may be: (i) the road is already at capacity (ii) while overall traffic volume is growing, other transportation improvements such as Highway 1 and South Fraser Perimeter Road have come on line and influenced some trips.

That is: the other investments already done in the region are sufficient to address the traffic growth!

The traffic growth itself should be questioned. The whole Gateway program has been justified by traffic Armageddon by 2010 which has so far failed to materialize. below is a graph using the 1989 to 2003 data of the gateway office [1] completed by the 2010 ones [2]

Overall, on the years 2003 to 2010 the traffic has kept stable. Notice how the Port Mann bridge traffic has significantly decrased in conjunction with the opening of the Golden Ears bridge

  • Not unexpected, the traffic increase on the Golden Ears bridge is in fact achieved in quasi totality at the expense of the Port Mann Bridge. That illustrates it was no latent unfulfilled demand as long as the full cost of the trip is expected to be paid by the user
  • When the (free) offer exceeds the demand, it is an invitation to use it: that is well illustrated with the Alex Fraser Bridge, where the demand growth has a continuous pace not witnessed in other part of the region: that is typically how urban sprawl occurs

Those mistakes on the traffic projection has been done in the past…be on the unnecessary replacement project of the Lions gate bridge or other road projects in town On the topic, one will especially refer to a report of 1962 devising on the need of rapid transit in Vancouver which was foreseeing

  • Exponential growth fo vehicular traffic
  • Stagnation of Transit ridership

…but Vancouver didn’t build freeway: Then the traffic prediction has proven totally wrong and the choice to not build freeway can be justified a posteriori…Whether Vancouver had build freway, we could have been mired in Seattle style grid lock…but making the traffic prediction true. The lesson of it is that in matter of transportation, offer drive the demand.

Last month, Dr. Kee Yeon Hwang, was in town to explain nothing different to Translink as quoted by its buzzer blog

…adding capacity doesn’t make things better. Sometimes it contributes to worsening traffic.
I saw that many links encourages more routes. Once we got rid of some roads, that might reduce people’s willingness to travel downtown by car.

In despite of clear evidence from Seoul, and elsewhere, demonstrating the accuracy of this judgement,Translink stubbornly continues to force feed more road to New Westminster…

Is it to make sure their traffic projection are proven right that they have axed bus route in new Westminster?

Traffic safety

Since the United Boulevard can’t be justified by Traffic projection, Translink has decided to justify the project by the amount of “collision” as provided by ICBC.

Reducing the number of collisions is may be a nice initiative, but what is certainly more important is reducing the number of injuries and fatalities. It could be a paradox but they are different things, and some time it is better to have lot of fender-benders than fewer but more severe collision.

That has been well understood in Europe since now for around 2 decades:

  • Encouraging car traffic by increasing capacity and encouraging speeding is the wrong way to go!

Some other strategies based on road calming are now largely developed in western Europe, and road safety has increased dramatically in Europe this last 10 years. In comparison no significant progress has been done in Canada which could now be considered as a dangerous country according to nowadays European standard [7]

Still in despite of evidence now proven by the fact that Western European roads-where aggressive traffic calming are widespread- are now much safer, Translink view of safety is still anchored in the 60s culture of freeway expansion:

  • “Safety Goal” is Reduction of collision rate, not reduction of fatalities and injuries

…a policy which has failed to improve road safety in the last 10 years or so.

Goods Movement

That is the last reason invoked to justify more roads. Again the numbers provided by Translink are unconvincing.

  • Around 40 trucks per hour per direction peak time use the United Boulevard
  • That is roughly 5 to 10% of the total traffic

Goods movement is important but clearly truck traffic alone is not able to justify the investment…If you want to improve the truck traffic, you still can resort to some solution dissuading cars to use the Bailey bridge, that is transforming the United Boulevard as a cul de sac for car.

A cartrap, as here seen on a busway in cambridge UK, allow to discriminate traffic between SOV and heavy truck

The New Westminster leader explains in an editorial [3] that “barges to get containers up river, [are] much more expensive than trucking”…Not sure where they get this assessment. We have seen little study on it, and the only one we can refer for the region beg to differs [4]:

Short-sea container shipping, for selected terminal locations and routes
and with sufficient volume, offers price competitiveness with trucking and
some competitive advantages (likely to expand dramatically over time) in
the areas of delivery time and delivery time reliability. These advantages
occur because of road network congestion as well as deep-sea terminal
flow issues, gate congestion, reservation limitations and operating hour
limitations. All of these factors impact on truck transfer delivery time and
costs but do not affect a short-sea operation with on-dock marshalling
  • It is important to note that this conclusion is reached without injection of taxpayer money, what is far of to be the case for the road option hugely subsidized by the tax payer
  • It is not less important to note that addressing road congestion address only one element among other affecting the effectiveness of shipping from/to port, when a short sea shipping option could be more holistic

Clearly the New Westminster Leader editorial board is either ill informed or purposely misleads its readers to push the road builders agenda.

A Multi billions dollars road

It is important to note that the road lobby is often advancing a piece at a time to avoid to disclose too openly the true cost of road building…but the United Boulevard Extension doesn’t make sense outside a fully completed NFPR…That is certainly a multi billions dollars investment.

The tragedy of transit and other alternative options to mitigate traffic in New Westminster is they are not measured against the full cost of the NFPR, but only against the cost of the United Boulevard extension.

  • Measuring all the option on an equal foot is something Translink seems not prepared to do…but let see what the workshop will teach us.

[1] Gateway Program definition report

[2] Number from MOT, see Bridg traffic post

[3] Why we need to build the United Boulevard Extension New Westminster Leader, April 7th 2010.

[4] Greater Vancouver Short Sea Container Shipping Study Novacorp International/JWD Group, Vancouver, January 2005

[5] Pat Johnstone from TenToTheFraser

[6] Road to the future is not the United Boulevard Extension of the NFPR, Andrew Feltham, New Westminster leader, April 12, 2011

[7] Road safety evolution in EU, July 2010, European Commission


2 Responses to “New West Besieged by Translink”

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, but I have talked about the UBE much more on my own blog then I have on Tenthtothefraser…


  2. […] New West Besieged by Translink В« Voony's Blog Apr 13, 2011 … [4] Greater Vancouver Short Sea Container Shipping Study Novacorp International/ JWD Group, Vancouver, January 2005. [5] Pat Johnstone from TenToTheFraser … […]

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