January 26, 2015

Is the Pattullo taking the Port Mann traffic?

While traffic counts are below expectations on the Port Mann Bridge, is this a result of ‘peak car,’ changing demographics, job shifting, tolls – or is being absorbed on the Pattullo Bridge, the so-called ‘free alternative’ required by provincial policy.

That’s what this commenter thinks:


I think the Pattullo Bridge is taking up most of the slack from the traffic not going on the Port Mann.

And here’s something odd — I think it’s not passenger vehicles, but trucks.

About 75% of the time I cross the Pattullo, there’s a large truck ahead of me taking up both lanes to cross the bridge.




I’ve even heard a rumour that the trucking companies have now told their drivers two things:

1. Take the Pattullo to save the bridge toll
2. Always take both lanes for “safety” reasons (And this is apparently illegal so it’s probably not in writing anywhere, but it would be fun to see that actually written out on some trucking company’s website)


I’ve been crossing the Pattullo for 30 years, and it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve seen this many trucks taking both lanes on the Pattullo. Since the bridge hasn’t actually shrunk, and I’m assuming that trucks haven’t gotten wider, it must be because of the toll bridge.

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  1. It sure would be nice to have actual data on any of this as opposed to just anecdotes. Are the Province/translink/cities not measuring/capturing this?

    1. It’s a start, but most (80%?) of the square footage on any given city street is being occupied by a private car. Forcing trucking companies to internalize some of the costs of road traffic will make for better infrastructure decisions, but if we want real progress on congestion, we’ll have to do more than just that.

  2. I have to say that I support the drivers of wide vehicles who are using both lanes on the Pattullo. It’s a narrow bridge by modern standards and avoiding the horror of occasional head-on collisions is worth the delay in traffic that it causes, even if this exacerbates an already congested corridor.

    I do think that the picture of trans-Fraser commuting will change when the Pattullo is replaced, pending the success of the transport plebiscite, but until then it’s not surprising that some people are avoiding the tolls, even if just by following their GPS, many of which are set by default to avoid tolled routes. Ultimately, all of the bridges ought to have some form of tolling with integrated regional tolling rates that adjust to current level of service and time of day to maximize the efficiency of the road network. We’ll have to get over the hump of tolling existing infrastructure, as opposed to only tolling new bridges, and even that rule has been inconsistently applied.

    It is frustrating that the demand forecasts for the New Port Mann Bridge and the Golden Ears Bridge failed to correctly model observed behaviour. Perhaps the models placed too great a premium on time savings and its ability to alter behaviour, but that’s not uncommon. It’s not that much different than the dire pronouncements that congestion is hurting the region’s economy by X billion per year, and failing to note that number is at least partially theoretical and based on the assumption that the region’s prevailing median hourly wage can be used to place value on time lost to commuters in congestion, despite this largely being non-remunerated time.

    We cannot satisfactorily quantify what one’s time is worth when sitting in traffic, so the next best thing is to quantify what their time is worth when they’re ‘on the clock’ at work and use that to illustrate hypothetical lost productivity due to congestion. This technique creates a nice big number (call it a half-hour lost to congestion a day, multiplied by the prevailing hourly wage in metro Vancouver, multiplied by the number of people commuting each day) and this can help justify transportation expansion projects. However, it isn’t an accurate reflection of the true cost of congestion.

    How individuals value time is a wellspring for economic modelling and the fact that it isn’t a more exact science must be frustrating to policy makers that endeavour to make informed, evidence-based decisions.

    What is also fascinating is that so many people are not paying the toll to use the New Port Mann Bridge and the Golden Ears Bridge, despite benefiting from substantial time savings, which was the primary justification for investing in this infrastructure. According to a CBC article today (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/icbc-blocking-record-25-000-drivers-for-unpaid-port-mann-bridge-tolls-1.2932051), ICBC has had more than 25,000 unpaid tolls worth about $3 million dollars for the New Port Mann Bridge referred to them for collection. Meanwhile, Translink has referred more than 17,000 unpaid tolls for the Golden Ears Bridge to ICBC and about 4,100 unpaid fare evasion tickets.

    In light of the unpaid tolls, it’s interesting, but unsurprising, that there are no strident calls ringing out from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for toll booths and gates to be installed on the bridges to put a stop to ‘deadbeats’ using the bridges without paying for them. Nor are there caustic recriminations that it was unacceptably naive to have ever devised a pay-per-use system without a mechanism to control access to the facility.

    1. “It is frustrating that the demand forecasts for the New Port Mann Bridge and the Golden Ears Bridge failed to correctly model observed behaviour.” — That problem is easy to fix. If private companies were liable for (most of) the losses in that PPP, they would have made sure that the traffic projections were robust. And the bridge could not have been built under the pretext that it would be payed for by it’s users.

      It’s also interesting that the CTF does not label the $40m a year that TransLink is losing because of the lofty traffic projections on the Golden Ears as ‘waste’.

    2. The double standard is appalling.

      People evade fares on transit –> the transit company isn’t doing its job properly; we must install gates and hire more police to make sure that everyone (even those unable to do so) pay the full fare.

      People evade tolls on bridges –> silence
      The public is forced to pay more to cover bridge toll evasion –> silence
      The government makes massive errors when determining toll bridge financing –> silence

    3. David Godin wrote: “We cannot satisfactorily quantify what one’s time is worth when sitting in traffic”

      For many people it appears to be worth less than $3, since they won’t pay that much to use the free-flowing toll bridges. I’ll bet that number would throw a monkey wrench into the calculation of “economic loss due to congestion”.

      1. That’s probably because most people’s schedules have some flexibility. That’s who household chores don’t get done, why the faucet still leaks, why the lawn hasn’t been mowed – it’s not the same as running a business and people don’t behave as if their lives were as micro-managed as a business might be.
        That extra 10 minutes may be the same as browsing at the mall.
        Or maybe the Alex Fraser or Patullo routes allows a stop at a the Queensborough Wal-Mart or the Scott Road Home Depot along the way.

      2. Yes, that’s exactly the point. Governments try to justify huge road infrastructure projects by claiming they’ll produce $X billion in economic benefits by eliminating wait time, when the reality is that for a significant portion of the population that wait time isn’t really worth anything to them anyway. If there were really an economic benefit to be had by eliminating the wait time then people wouldn’t hesitate to pay the Port Mann bridge toll.

  3. It makes sense for trucks to take up two lanes.
    There’s a sharp curve on the bridge approach.
    Trucks have signs on them warning of “wide turns” for a reason – some moron will try to pass them when there isn’t room and will get squashed.
    Taking two lanes ultimately provides safety and potentially avoids a bridge closure due to an accident.

  4. How is it that large trucks & buses have been crossing the Pattullo Bridge for years, but in the only the last few years “certain drivers” take up both lanes? It has nothing to do with safety as large trucks are only permitted in the right lane & having them drive in both lanes would actually increase the chances of a head on collision. When I see a trucker take up both lanes (and it’s always the same ones) that tells me that they are too lazy to learn how to properly drive a large truck before they are ready and figures “why should I have to learn how to drive on a bridge in one lane, when no ones does anything about it when I can take both lanes”. Oh and screw the people if my truck breaks down when I’m in both lanes like it did a couple of weeks ago when southbound traffic was completely shut down during rush hour, I was now late for a doctor’s appointment and I had no choice but to take the Port Mann and pay the toll! If you can’t drive on a bridge in stay in one lane, when there are plenty of drivers who have no problem with staying in one lane, then you have no business using the Pattullo!! It’s time the city & police of New West & Surrey do something about it!

  5. Perhaps trucks should be prohibited from Patullo ? Has that been discussed in MetroVan council ? Then the bridge would deteriorate slower ie last longer, be less of a bottleneck for cars, and all trucks would either use PM bridge or the Alex Fraser bridge.

    Perhaps Massey tunnel should be truck free too ?

    it just shows me that infrastructure needs upgrades, and that is in the works, but until then measures exist to keep cars moving.

    MetroVan leadership and provincial leadership here are quite weak.

    Healthy economies = healthy cities .. as only with healthy economies is the money available to build beautiful parks, wider sidewalks, bike path, feed the homeless etc …