September 22, 2015

Sunshine Coast Connector: Initial Reviews

Bob Ransford:  “YIKES” is my initial response. This looks like sprawl unlimited. I have no problem with managed growth in small communities like Gibsons, Sechelt and Powell River, respecting their ecological/geographical constraints.
Unleashing the Lower Mainland’s motordom on these coastal communities with highways and bridges connecting them to our metropolitan area will jeopardize everything that makes these communities different and special and will endanger the wilderness ecosystems that are proximate to them. Whenever a provincial highway passes through a town, the mandate of that infrastructure is simply to move whatever volume is on that highway as quickly and as directly through that town as possible.
More on his Facebook page here.

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Ian Robertson: The province has proposed a bridge to the Sunshine Coast … conveniently making Woodfiber LNG more accessible without having to cross Squamish Nation lands across the river from Squamish.

Were it to be part of a regional transportation/transit plan it might seem like a great idea, but it seems like another form of ‘bridge to nowhere’ announced suspiciously close to an election.

Apparently it is a good idea for everyone surrounding Vancouver to get a free bridge, while Vancouver has to buy its own transit.
More here from the CBC.

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  1. Time to bring on the tolls then. Personally, I’d prefer a route island hopping across to Bowen, Keats then Gibsons.
    A $20/direction or similar toll would likely keep the Sunshine Coast from being part of the commuter shed and pay off the infrastructure.
    As is, I never go to the sunshine coast because of the ferries. My childhood memories are always of having to leave my grandparents holiday dinners at 7:30pm to rush back and catch the ferry. A pain in the butt.
    Also, a side benefit is that ferry traffic from Horseshoe Bay would be reduced. This would help reduce congestion on the North Shore assuming volumes don’t jump massively. The irregular nature of ferry offloading traffic really screws up the bridges southbound since they’re fine for much of the day, but at certain times multiple boats unload and cause demand spikes.
    It’s about time Vancouver had better access to it’s hinterland.

  2. You speak as though the highway would only replace ferry trips, and yet provide better access for people like you, who avoid going because of the ferry.
    Which is it? Does the highway provide better access and increase traffic, or does it reduce congestion?
    You can’t have both.

  3. If you’re interested in tolling roads to pay for (new) road/bridge infrastructure, why wasn’t the Sea to Sky Highway not tolled from the get-go? Answer: to foster development in the corridor. (IMO, as usual.)

  4. Frank
    Perhaps it should have been tolled, but you can guarantee than nobody in Squamish or Whistler would have taken that lying down. I would much rather just keep increasing the gas tax to keep demand in the check instead of arbitrarily tolling bits and pieces of infrastructure.
    The reality of the current situation is that the toll for Hwy101 is effectively $68 for a single occupancy vehicle, $42.35 for a motorcycle, $17.85 for a cyclist and $15.85 for a pedestrian or additional passenger. A 40′ bus is $210 + passengers, and a semi truck is several hundred for a round trip.
    Even if the fares stay the exact same, the service level would be much better with a couple bridges. You could probably sell that to the businesses and residents on the coast without a huge fuss.
    —–
    Agustin
    Do you know how traffic metering lights work at onramps? They spread out traffic, so you don’t get a big clog followed by a period of low utilisation. They actually increase the capacity of the road that they meter. It works because congested roads are able to carry less traffic. As is, the traffic pulses temporarily cause more congestion to form, which causes the carrying capacity of the road to drop. Switching to a bridge from a tunnel would work the same way as a metering light.
    I’d imagine a lot of the induced trips would also occur in off peak periods. I don’t think I’d be venturing to the Sunshine Coast at 4PM on a weekday just because my motorcycle needs to be run.

    1. If I understood you correctly, you are saying that, although there would be increased traffic, the highway would flow smoothly because the traffic would be temporally spread out.
      Even if that were true on the highway itself (of which I’m skeptical, given the traffic jams that form on other highways connecting big cities with tourist destinations), where do you suppose all those additional cars are going?
      What do you propose doing at the destinations on the sunshine coast to temporarily house those cars and keep them flowing along all the main streets in the small towns along the way?
      It’s a vicious cycle, urbinflux. It’s played out again and again and again, and it’s time to get off that ride.

  5. Places like Gambier Is. or Keets would be hard pressed to handle traffic, because largely they’ve always been boat access primary communities.
    Gibsons would probably be the focus of any issues since it’s the closest part of the SSC. Currently they handle the ferry traffic by sending cars up a short bypass route. It connects to an existing hydro corridor which MoT is probably eyeing as a route to Sechelt. Connect that to whatever bridgehead gets built.
    I don’t think the volume of cars would ever exceed the ability of a 2 lane highway though. Mission which has more than double the population of the entire Sunshine Coast is still only connected by the Lougheed Hwy which is only 2 lanes in several segments. Also, Hwy 7 is a through road, while Hwy 101 would also continue to be a dead end.

    1. Am I understanding correctly that you think the project can be done so that car traffic wouldn’t significantly change from current volumes?
      If that’s the case, then the only benefit of the highway is the potential convenience of not having to take a ferry if you travel by car. Right? And then presumably the ferry service would be removed or drastically reduced to save the province money, right?
      Then the proposal would be to spend big piles of dollars to hopefully make it more convenient for people to drive to the sunshine coast, but not too convenient so that traffic doesn’t increase too much, while at the same time making it harder to get there without a car.
      Doesn’t seem logical to me.

  6. A single lane of grade separated highway can carry 1500-2000 vehicles per hour. A single C-Class ferry can carry 362 vehicles, and makes a round trip in about 2 hours.
    A 2 lane road bridge would still be an 800% increase in capacity over the ferry. A 4 lane bridge would be a 1600% increase.
    I think it would take a long time to fill up that capacity on the Sunshine Coast side of things, even if it was only 2 lanes. The traffic would likely increase slowly over a long period of time, and would be unlikely to make a big difference on the Lower Mainland end of things in terms of peak hour demand. The sunshine coast has more than it’s fair share of seniors after all.
    People probably aren’t going want to commute if the toll is the similar to the ferry, but they’re sure likely to be more willing to go rent a cabin or go camping up that way if they don’t have to risk a 3 ferry wait on a long weekend.
    I’m just pointing out that the current situation isn’t great unless you enjoy the current isolation.

  7. It would probably go up a bit. How much? I have no idea. What I doubt is that congestion would get worse.
    Currently the ferry dumps out it’s load of 362 vehicles over 10 minutes or so, and uses up all the available road capacity for a short period of time causing congesting to form. Averaged over two hours though, that’s only 3 cars per minute.
    Even doubling the traffic from the current maximum amount would only be an average of 6 cars per minute.

    1. So… a bit more traffic, then. Not so little that the oodles of money are unjustified, but not so much that the highway is congested. Enough to warrant drastically reducing ferry crossings, thus making it harder to reach the Sunshine Coast/Vancouver without a car, but not so much to require increased road capacity in Gibsons, Sechelt, etc.
      But wait – certainly it’ll be enough to warrant a third crossing to the North Shore. After all, Lions Gate and Second Narrows are already at capacity. Or maybe not, because then there’d be more traffic in the North Shore, and who wants that?
      Anyway, the link can be financed by tolls, because there’ll be enough traffic to cover the investment in a few years. Which, to allay our concerns, will mean that not as many people will use the highway, and therefore not pay the tolls.

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