The Province’s obsession with highway building and how it won’t help Surrey
One of the things that has been frustrating me lately is the Province’s idea of the transportation system priorities in Metro Vancouver. It seems that transportation planning at the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) has entered back into a 1950’s-style freeway building frenzy. Not even waiting for the final asphalt to be poured on the $3 billion Port Mann/Highway 1 project, the Province is already looking to replace the Massey Tunnel. The irony of this is not lost on me as the MoTI has spent the last several years building bus-only lanes and other priority traffic measures along the Highway 99 corridor based on a 2009 report.
Based on projected land use changes it is expected that travel demand on the Highway 99 corridor will increase 36% by 2021 and another 50% from 2021 to 2031. Given that there are no current plans to expand the capacity of the Highway it is unlikely that such growth could occur without a major shift to the transit mode.
It is interesting to note that although the numbers of buses on the corridor represent less than 1% of the vehicular demand, the person demand accommodated by buses on the highway ranges from 17% to 26%.
Up until this year, the MoTI and TransLink were successfully working towards prioritizing transit on the Highway 99 corridor. In fact, I was at a recent consultation with Port Metro Vancouver and they admitted to me that the Massey Tunnel replacement would do little to improve logistics for the Port.
While the Province makes up excuses about why the next freeway needs to be replaced or built, I have to wonder if it’s just another case of BC Blacktop Politics and the result of the BC Liberals’ connection to the road builders. Back in 2010 John Schnablegger, a planner at the MoTI, told me that the between 2014 and 2021 the MoTI would be out of the road building business in Metro Vancouver and would be focusing on delivering sustainable transportation improvements in the region. I guess that is no longer the case.
While all this freeway building has been going forward, TransLink (let’s not kid ourselves here, it is controlled by the Province) doesn’t even have the money to expand bus service. Expanding rapid transit is now a pipe-dream in Surrey. The Province has spent close to $4.2 billion between the Port Mann/Highway 1, South Fraser Perimeter Road, Highway 15, and Highway 10 projects building a freeway ring around Surrey. The irony is that all this unrestricted highway spending will do little to help the 70% of trips that go between points within Surrey.
The City of Surrey has plans for modest road expansion, but is actively working on shifting people to sustainable forms of transportation because they simply could not build enough roads to meet the transportation demands of the community if everyone drove. Knowing these facts, you’d think the Province would be investing in rapid transit for Surrey which could actually help the 70% of internal trips by giving people transportation choice and a way out of congestion, but the Province has not spent a dime on rapid transit for Surrey since 1994. The Province is actually working counter to modern transportation theory and the City of Surrey which is trying to prioritize other forms of transportation. The Province has instead chosen to build billions of dollars worth of freeways even though not one growing region in the world has been able to build their way out of congestion. I think the final insult for Surrey residents is the fact that the new express bus between Langley and Braid SkyTrain will not even stop in Surrey.
I do not understand how the Province has been allowed to get away with spending billions on highways that could only help 30% of trips to/from Surrey while not spending a penny on rapid transit within Surrey to help 70% of trips. When will we actually get on with building a sustainable transportation system in Surrey that will actually help the majority of resident in the community find a way out of congestion and give people transportation choice?