January 21, 2016

Questions on the Massey Bridge for the Leaders in the Shadows

“Leaders in the Shadows: The Leadership Qualities of Municipal Chief Administrative Officers” is the title of a recent book by David Siegel, a Professor of Political Science at Brock University. Yes, it’s about city managers – those who stay out of the limelight, but who directly influence the decision-makers, making recommendations that they are then charged with implementing, hence influencing both the inputs and the outcomes.  All very ‘Yes, Minister.’
It’s a perfect phrase for those whose names you didn’t read about or may not even know, but who must have influenced the Premier in her decision to announce the building of the Massey Bridge as a done deal, prior to the transit referendum in 2014.
These Leaders in the Shadows have contacts up, down and across the decision-making apparatus, notably those in the Gateway initiatives.  They then have to provide the justifications for a policy or project, even if the stated reasons aren’t actually the ones that determined the decision.  (Which in the case of Motordom is sometimes just the need to keep feeding the machine with multi-billion-dollar projects on a regular basis.  See ‘Sunshine Coast Connector.’)
The Massey Bridge proposal had no relationship (or even mention) in the regional transportation plan, or for that matter in any of the current provincial transportation plans. The previous Minister, Kevin Falcon, had even ruled it out.  But the LitS can come up with a new set of justifications.  Hey, it solves the worst congestion in the province!  Plus whatever other arguments are needed to justify a $4 billion exercise in excess. (Sure, throw in another lane; we can get this sucker up to at least ten.).
So far they’ve been able to avoid having to explain just how the decision-making actually worked and what factors went into the process – or did not.  Here’s an obvious one:

Did you take into account the possible impacts of new technologies and new ways people will be using vehicles – whether automated vehicles, car-sharing or Uber-like ride-sharing? If so, do share the results.

With respect to the impact of automated vehicles, we can be pretty sure that no serious work was done, if other jurisdictions are any indication – as noted in this piece from today’s New York Times:

Self-Driving Cars May Get Here Before We’re Ready

Even though fully autonomous cars could be ready for the road within the next decade, only 6 percent of the country’s most populous cities have accounted for them in their long-term plans, according to a study from the National League of Cities, an advocacy and research group. …

Google, Uber, Tesla and a host of automakers have been moving at full speed to develop driverless technologies. Although the federal government has expressed support for autonomous vehicles, it has so far left regulatory decisions to state and local governments.

“Paradoxically, despite a lot of cities’ thinking this technology is coming, very few have started to plan for it,” Mr. Mitchell said.


In the case of Massey we can reasonably conclude that it is being planned in spite of whatever technology might bring or the consequences of road pricing and the ability to regulate traffic volumes through market mechanisms.  But shovels have to be in the ground by the time the 2017 election rolls around.
Prediction: the Massey Bridge may be one of the greatest boondoggles in a province that historically has had no shortage of them.

Posted in


If you love this region and have a view to its future please subscribe, donate, or become a Patron.

Share on


  1. The problem with planning for autonomous vehicles is that nobody really knows exactly what the impacts will be. Will the number of vehicle owners go down or up? Will it increase car sharing or not? Will it increase transit availability or not?
    Given the need for autonomous vehicles to work in the existing mixed fleet of mistake-prone manually driven cars, and given the time it will take to eliminate that fleet, and given the fact that a substantial proportion of people actually like driving and may not want to use an autonomous car, and given that professional unionized drivers are likely to mount substantial resistance to being automated out of a job – it’s really too early to have any good idea what the end result will be (although it will of course be obvious in hindsight).
    It’s hard enough to predict traffic trends without all this technological change, to think we can do even half as good a job for the coming transition to self-driving cars is just hubris, IMHO.

    1. Post
      1. Funny, I’ve never heard anyone suggest that a solution could be had for a few billion less. Putting aside the regional plan for a moment, the South of Fraser alone is a mammoth problem that could swallow double the $4 billion. Only 4 out of 47 Skytrain stations are South of Fraser. Only 6 out of 68 km of track. And yet South of Fraser is bigger than all the other communities in Greater Vancouver combined (800 vs 600 sq km). Only a massive, massive investment in transit out here will change this status quo.
        The Surrey plan, for example, — modest by any standard — sees people in South Surrey taking a bus to a loop on highway 99, a light rail train to Surrey City Centre and then Skytrain into Vancouver — a long multi-modal thread that not even the transit enthusiasts out my way are even remotely interested in: too much hassle for too little benefit. No one out here is expecting any better, but we’re all expecting the Tunnel to get a lot worse.

      2. John, using only total area to justify massive public transportation expenditures over open farmland is not good planning. What is important is total population, density and land use.
        Though their total populations are within 20% of each other, the cities on the Burrard Peninsula have a combined population density triple South of Fraser communities (2,783 people per km2 vs. 948 people per km2*). Moreover, South of Fraser cities and towns occupy 2.4 times the amount of land, which of course reflects the larger relatively unpopulated ALR zones.
        * from 2011 census data
        When you discount zones that will likely never be subjected to urban developent (e.g.the ALR, watersheds, large parks) you are left with an area just a bit larger than 800 km2, which is called the Urban Containment Boundary where the median density over the entire Metro population is about 3,000 people per km2.
        With over 40% of all Metro jobs concentrated in eight town centres within the UCB, and with six of the town centres being located on the Burrard Peninsula, it is justified to focus regional rapid transit assets in the areas where the demand and ridership is greatest.
        For South of Fraser outside of Surrey and Richmond, BRT may be the most beneficial and cost effective transit. LRT may work but it should be married to increased density to be most effective and to justify its extra cost. SkyTrain has been a very effective backbone to the regional transit system.
        Now, what was that about an Atlanta-scale bridge / freeway slated for farmer’s fields? Could this be Oak Street 25 years after the Massey Monster is built?

  2. Post

    An overbuilt bridge with unnecessary infrastructure, particularly in a foundationally tricky place like the Fraser Delta, is a waste of resources. (Where is Bateman now that we need him?). Especially if a billion could go somewhere else that would make a greater difference, given that road pricing and better transit alone could address the congestion problem at Massey.

    1. And better transit means? This is no small problem. I know a bit about this: I worked on the design of the first Skytrain line and I’m a big train fan. I’ve also ridden trains of all kinds all over the world — probably 3,000 kilometers across China in the last month alone. To me, better transit South of the Fraser means new trains in new locations, not just a tag on to the end of Skytrain. I don’t hear anyone talking about that as even a remote possibility, particularly the infrastructure to get across the river, which is another way of saying bridge, which, yes, is going to be built on “foundationally tricky” soil like everything else on this river delta.

      1. Post
        1. Ahh, the Google / Facebook / etc solution. Silicon Valley. Great. Seen a ton of them. So there’s going to be a bridge, just not as big a bridge, and that’s where we’re going to save all the money. And they’ll be driving in through traffic, unlike a train.
          So tomorrow I have a meeting at 30th and Trafalgar and I’m going in from South Surrey. Google tells me it will be 42 minutes by car and 105 minutes by transit. That’s on an express bus to the Canada Line to a local bus. That’s an extra hour one way, then I’m going to do the same thing home. When the new deluxe express busses come I’m going to save exactly what off the current time?
          Now, my charge out rate is a lot higher than any toll charge can possibly be, so what’s my incentive?

        2. I checked Translink Trip planner. I think you meant 1 hour 5 minutes (yes I have a lot of time on my hands lately). And because of the new one zone bus travel, you get a break on the fare… only 4 bucks!
          Now if only the Arbutus right of way were converted into transit lanes, we’d have a pretty good commuter service from South Surrey right into Central Broadway and the downtown core.

          1. Actually I did mean 1 hour and 35 minutes and when I just checked it it’s now 1 hour and 40 minutes, because, as they say, timing is everything. Google adjusts for the current flow of traffic and at the moment it’s about as bad as when I first googled it — it was better when you did. And in that is the problem: surface transportation is highly variable and prone to backups and weather. Trains are much more reliable but that’s not what’s on the table for South of Fraser.

      2. The GMT Bridge project includes a few bits to provide for express bus service. There’s:
        – dedicated HOV lane (transit & HOV)
        – “integrated” bus stop at Steveston interchange
        – “integrated” bus stop at Hwy17A interchange (I think an integrated bus stop would have a pull-out and platform (and pedestrian access bridges) like the bus stations on the I-5 HOV lanes near Seattle)
        – bus only ramp from HOV with a dedicated bus only road under the Oak ST. bridge to Bridgeport Station (akin to the Government Road bus only HOV ramp off Hwy 1 in Burnaby)

    2. The idea of a bridge is to allow bigger boats up the Fraser after it is deepened, to drive more commercial development in Surrey, Delta, Ladner, Richmond and New West, on both sides of Fraser. This will drive more truck traffic and in time more residential development. We might even push land out further west of Ladner and Tsawwassen and into Boundary Bay like many other coastal regions from Holland, Asia, New York, San Francisco bay Are or New Orleans have done. As such a new bridge, or deeper tunnel makes sense.
      Perhaps we might even move the Vancouver container port there, and build Yaletown 2 in this prime location east of downtown instead, connected via subway to downtown and N-Van/Burnaby.
      Traffic will only increase in MetroVan south of Fraser, human or robot driven. Like e-cars, we will see that the pickup of self driving cars in the real world is far slower than in ideal lab like conditions. Cell phones were “here” in the 1970s, yet only wide spread 30+ years later ! E-cars are 10 years old and sell less than 1% of new cars. Self-driving will come in stages: first parking (how many cars have that ? 1% ?), then highways, then some city areas, then everywhere except rural, then everywhere. The real world is complex, and robots work well only in limited environments.
      I expect Massey bridge will be heralded as visionary in 2030 and SFPR will be far too small even in 2020 after the Massey bridge opens.

      1. Peter Ladner wrote recently about a self driving Tesla operating in North Vancouver. 30 years? That is crazy. Cell phones required infrastructure for the network to be useful. Not true with autonomous cars. And why would adoption depend on location? If you buy a low cost Ford Focus it can self park in downtown. Also in Hope. It doesn’t care.

      2. Post

        John, if transit doesn’t work for you on that trip to 30th and Trafalgar, then drive. What you want is enough other people taking transit to reduce congestion. And for that, more and better transit.
        Otherwise? A freeway through Vancouver? – de facto if a separated right-of-way is unrealistic (see Kirk Lapointe’s proposals as NPA mayoral candidate).
        The provincial government is building expanded-capacity freeways in every possible direction to the borders of Vancouver – Sea-to-Sky, Highway 1 and Port Mann, and now Highway 99 and Massey. And they imposed a referendum on Metro that effectively defunded transit expansion.
        So what now, when you think about getting from South Surrey to Kerrisdale or anywhere else into the heart of Vancouver in the future? What do you think they at MOTI could possibly have in mind?

        1. A few years ago MoTI published their master plan. It involved:
          – Twinning of Massey Tunnel
          – Doubling Knight Bridge
          – Doubling Oak Bridge
          – New bridge over North arm at Arbutus alignment.
          Looks like they are well on their way. Maybe we will have our Vancouver freeways after all. Assuming of course that there is money left over after Massey Bridge and road connection to Sunshine Coast.

          1. Post
            1. Sorry – I searched long and hard for a reference. All I can say is that it was on MoTI website sometime prior to 2012. It may have mentioned YVR twinning Arthur Lang instead of Oak. They must have quietly removed the document.

            2. Here is a paragraph from the 2006 Gateway Program Definition Report PDR. Not as strinbg as previously stated.
              Consideration was given to widening the George Massey Tunnel in conjunction with development of the South Fraser Perimeter Road. To capture sufficient benefits, twinning the tunnel would also require improvements to other crossings over the North Arm of the Fraser River, such as the Oak Street or Knight Street bridges, or a new crossing to serve projected commuting patterns associated with employment growth in central Burnaby. While upgrades to the George Massey Tunnel remain part of the Ministry of Transportation’s longer term plans, widening of the Port Mann Bridge and development of the South Fraser Perimeter Road would provide greater overall benefit to the region.

  3. Hey, hold on Christy. Self-driving or robot-driven tractor trailers, and Google cars are only forty or fifty years away from picking us up at home and zooming us to wherever we need to go for a few pennies. Ultra luxurious fast-buses that will go to all corners of Ladner, Beach Grove, Centennial Beach, Tsawwassen, Panorama Ridge, South Delta, Ocean Park, South Surrey, White Rock, Bellingham, Seattle, Morgan Crossing, Morgan Heights, Cloverdale, High Pointe – you name it, are being built right now and should be here in just as soon as TransLink signs on the dotted line, which could be as soon as 2045. So let’s see if we can make that little tunnel last for a hundred years. Just for old times sake.
    Does someone please have a violin?

    1. Sensible suggestions, over 20 years ago. How many of them have been implemented ? Knight and Oak Street bridge seem rather undersized still, today 20+ years later.

    2. Eric – thanks for the link though that was not the doc I was referring to Interesting that they were planning this so long ago. The doc I saw was published some time between 2006 and 2012 and mentioned twinning of tunnel, twinning of Knight St., twinning of Arthur Laing and building a new crossing of the North Arm at the Arbutus alignment. Odd that I can find no references to this. Maybe it was a bad dream.

  4. Here is the smoking gun. This is what got us all into this disastrous mess. This is another of those massive ‘social engineering’ reports that backfired. It was 1993. There was also a Long Range Report. It’s a business.
    All projections in the report show the South Surrey and the Langleys region growing massively (see page 12) and the plan is to engineer the reduction of this growth. Throughout the report this area is almost ignored, the telling honesty is found on page 52, where we see that “Southern Region Langleys” is expected to grow the most of the whole region by 29% of total growth, but through social engineering the plan is to reduce that growth to 8% of total.
    This will be done with “Transport Demand Management”, which is an “important lever for changing travel behaviour”, by increasing transit in other areas and not improving infrastructure and “introducing tolls quickly and forcefully”, raising fuel prices, inducing congestion, etc., and, of course, “a programe of public education” and, get this. “letting congestion worsen”.
    Isn’t that great. Next time you’re stuck in traffic remember that the good planners at the GVRD, Metro Vancouver, working for you, being paid by you, have possibly purposely designed the congestion because it’s good for you. And, you voted against them taxing you more? Why, aren’t you a total masochist?
    On page 19, which is still the introduction, we see that the writers say they believe that “investments that lower the cost of transportation to the centre will simultaneously reduce the value of the land at the centre and increase the value of the suburbs” (page 19). (They cite a paper from someone at the University of Berkeley.) So, investments in infrastructure and transit to the regions should be minimal, to preserve the value of land in Vancouver. This, they have achieved.
    If Gregor Robertson is really intent on lowering the cost of housing in Vancouver, this study and this report advise him that this can be done by improving transport infrastructure and transit to the ‘burbs. ie: Massey Bridge and improved enlarged bridge, or tunnel, to the North Shore.
    This study was headed by Martin Crilly, who in 2009 severely criticized Glen Clark’s decision to build the Millennium Line to places that didn’t have many residents.
    Some libraries have a copy of the report on-line is a scanned photocopy.

  5. Another interesting point is that in 1993 the report mentioned above gives the 29% growth of the region expected in Surrey and the Langleys, and the intention is to reduce this to 8% with induced congestion, gas taxes, etc., etc.
    As Nathan Pachal pointed out a few days ago (https://pricetags.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/the-city-of-vancouver-is-not-the-centre-of-the-region/), the projection of proportional growth for this area is exactly the same now as it was then.
    All the social engineering failed.

    1. So is buiding a $3 billion plus Port Mann/Hwy 1 expansion and a $3,5 billion Massey Bridge/Hwy 99 project not a massive social engineering project designed to get more people driving more often? Automobile transportation is probably already the biggest social program in Canada so do we want to make it even bigger?

      1. We build what people want. New wider bridges to facilitate economic growth and population growth does not mean we should not also invest into public transit. We need both and much of the work being done now is catch-up work for failed investments in the 1990’s and 2000’s.
        The keyword is AND not either-or !
        Knight and Oak street bridges are too narrow, for example as is the barely opened SFPR. Missing also are more subways on Vancouver to UBC, to E-Van and to N-Van and W-Van as both Lionsgae and Second Narrow bridges are too small for north shore population growth. Unclear to me why property taxes are not raised to pay for it, or parking fees as these tools are in the local councils’ control. I expect politicians to make the tough calls and not shift the blame up to the province, or to the Feds and whine.

        1. Knight and Oak street bridges are too small? So if we increase those bridge capacities what happens when the cars get to Knight and Oak street? Are we going to bulldoze around the existing streets to increase capacity?

          1. We remove parking along these streets, for example. Or we allow more flow on Boundary Road to Hwy 1, north-south. Or we toll them. These bridges are very old and far too narrow. We need a few E-W and N-S thoroughfares not artificial concepts to annoy car users. City councils – unlike the current provincial government – are not listening to their tax payers and are just annoying them. We need free flowing roads AND more bike lanes AND more rapid transit options. A mainly bus based rapid transit system is not acceptable to the majority of car users. Not everyone loves density, especially families with kids. Try to go on a bus or a bike with a two and a five year old, with three grocery bags. A major challenge, especially in the rain. Or trying to deliver a fridge. Or go from Surrey to N-Van. People chose cars for a reason. Individually controlled heat and music too !
            Missing are tolls or congestion fees, layered by time of day, as hybrid ( I drive one because I am a practical not fanatical green guy, btw) or an e-car or a small car pays too little in gasoline surcharges.

  6. Arno; After over twenty years of trying to reduce the proportional size of Surrey and the Langleys, with such measures as, “letting congestion worsen” and the gas-tax, etc., then failing completely and coming up with the identical proportion, it’s to be expected that a different approach is employed.
    Relieving congestion with a new bridge for the fastest growing region is slightly different engineering than increasing congestion.

    1. If proposed bridge is built, it will probably reduce congestion on the freeway for a few years but it will almost certainly increase car use and will increase congestion throughout Richmond, Vancouver and South Delta. Congestion has never been solved by building more roads. LA has finally discovered this as has Atlanta. We seem to be one of the few places in North America still clinging to the 60’s notion that more freeways are good and that it is the only way to reduce congestion.

    2. The Transportation 2021 report, part of the Livable Region plan, as shown by the mid term transportation report linked above by Eric, even acknowledges what Arno is referring to. MOTH asked residents what they thought about building highways to reduce congestion, and the results showed that this approach wasn’t supported, with a majority indicating it wasn’t worth it, that they should invest in transit instead. What Eric calls social engineering was actually responding to the will of the people.

      1. And the reason it failed is because the Province makes every effort to hobble TransLink and to ignore the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy by imposing their car-centric planning model on the region. How much worse can it get?

      2. That’s funny. So why is the Southern Region and the Langleys covered with an increasing supply of townhouses that just sell like crazy? Who’s buying?
        If the will of the people is for more transit then where is that for these areas? I mean, we are talking about 23 years and all that’s suggested is a few buses.
        Try and answer the question as to why, after 23 years of the policy the proportion of growth in the South Region and the Langleys is precisely the same, yet the glorious Transport 2021 Report stated clearly that the intention was to reduce this proportion to 8%?
        This is not unusual. History is littered with so-called democracies that really just pretended to listen to the citizenry while pursuing their agenda to the letter. Oh, wow, isn’t that what many said about masses of towers Broadway and Commercial, right here at ground zero?
        By the way Jeff; on your other point, if the will of the people was for more transit why on earth did they vote down that referendum that was going to slap a penny on your Kool-Aid?

        1. If you don’t have proper coordingated regional planning and you don’t give people choices, then, well, I guess they don’t have many choices. I don’t think people would choose a one hour commute by car if they had alternate choices.

  7. Eric,
    After all this, I still don’t know what you advocate for. I sure know all the things you don’t like, but what do you want? Where do you see this region in 20-40 years?

  8. My two cents: I’d like the South of Fraser area to be treated not as a suburb of Vancouver but as a separate region with direct, fast rail to downtown Vancouver, stopping only a couple of times on the way in. South of Fraser is just too far and too big to be added on to the end of the rail lines that service Richmond, Vancouver, Burnaby and New West.

    1. At least 2 of the interchanges for the new Massey Bridge will have bus stations built right into the median of the freeway, so no time wasted exiting and fighting back onto the freeway as is the case now. There’s also a bus exit planned that will connect to Bridgeport Station. Plus the bus lane across the bridge.
      It’s not rail, but when it’s completed, there should be a pretty fast commuter bus service running between South Surrey and Bridgeport. Something to build on.

    2. And if Skytrain is extended to Langley (1 hour to downtown), and there is BRT or LRT service between Surrey Central and White Rock, I would consider SOF pretty well served

    3. Just did a little math here. The trip from South Surrey park n ride to Vancouver City Centre is 40 km’s. In light traffic it takes the 351 + Canada Line 48 minutes to do the trip. Cross multiply and you get an average speed of 50 km/h. That’s faster than Skytrain. With the upcoming improvements, that time will be achievable during rush hour.

  9. Don – Off the top of my head, without too much thought, because I am a commercial tradesman, not a planner. I too think a rapid train to the outlying regions is essential. I cannot understand why the crossing to the north shore also does not have a train, or at least a tunnel for traffic. Imagine living in North or West Vancouver and needing to get to YVR.
    The daily congestion over the Lions Gate Bridge is crazy and the last time the bridge was upgraded the three little lanes were retained!
    Why was there no proposal to extend Sky Train south from King George Station? It just stops, in a growing residential neighbourhood. I understand that the ALR is sacrosanct but look at the massive ALR land mass in Richmond all for berries? The largest ‘real’ food crop there are spuds at 4% of the land. This is food security?
    In Delta about 38% of the land is used to cultivate vegetables.
    Great. I love the fresh smell of farmland. I like the vistas too but if that’s what Metro Vancouver wants then I want decent access to the North Shore, Surrey and Langley, the US border, etc., and this means decent sized roads and bridges to accommodate the traffic flow.
    Nathan Pachal was right. Too many Vancouverites are blinkered when it comes to the ‘burbs.
    I strongly supported the RAV/Canada Line and was amazed to see municipal mayors constantly vote against it. In my opinion we need more of these P3 infrastructure projects because I believe that P3s are generally less subject to cost overruns. The Canada Line came in on budget, as did the Richmond Oval. That was another project the naysayers scoffed at and opposed.
    I also strongly believe in competition in the public transport sector. I want deregulation of the bus and the taxi industries.
    I’d like to see far greater efficiencies at the municipal levels. I think that collective bargaining by unions that becomes accepted across the region by other municipalities is tantamount to price-fixing cartel behaviour.
    I think that Air Care should have been retained and used to periodically examine other aspects, rather than just emissions, of vehicles on the public roads.
    Massive areas of Vancouver should be re-zoned for townhouses and modest, stepped-back mid-rises. This is what a large proportion of people want. Especially those starting a family. The prevailing idea, common in many heads around 12th and Cambie, that people must live in high-rises is wrong.
    The present re-zoning must also incorporate downsized micro commercial spaces, that will therefore be affordable, to maintain the coherence of neighbourhoods.
    Have to go back to work now. Thank you for asking.

    1. You want increase the capacity on the Lions gate bridge??? Where would all the traffic go on Georgia street? It’s already at capacity.
      A very small increase in transit capacity was suggested by getting another Seabus but that was rejected by people like you in the referendum. If that was rejected how would you pay for a subway expansion to the North Shore?

      1. Obviously, the northbound traffic on Georgia would not any longer be there as much. Southbound should be relieved with easier southbound routes; Denman, Burrard and Howe and even Richards are slow turns, often with blocked traffic with few vehicles getting through because of pedestrians.
        Shifting the pedestrian crossings to only the south side of a couple of those intersections would greatly relieve the congestion along Georgia.

          1. The traffic wouldn’t be reduced, it would flow and not be stuck on Georgia.
            I’m not an engineer but Georgia NW is pretty wide, so I’d imagine a tunnel could run down from around Pender quite easily. It would be much easier than the Canada Line boring which had to re-route submerged services at each intersection.

        1. Oy. Suggesting we block crossings for pedestrians in the downtown core so that traffic moves faster…I don’t even know what to say.

          1. This would not be unique. Pedestrians can’t cross Burrard across the south side of the intersection with Pacific. Neither can they at the west side of Georgia at Denman.

          2. Actually, what we need is more pedestrian scramble intersections – peds get to go all ways as part of the signal phasing. Georgia & Granville would be a great spot. Probably more ped crossings than motor vehicle crossings and pedestrians are at the top of the transportation hierarchy – at least on paper.

    2. “Off the top of my head, without too much thought, because I am a commercial tradesman, not a planner.”
      🙂 Good caveat.

    3. @ Eric The traffic wouldn’t be reduced
      How many lanes would it be? The Canada line is much more narrow than 4 lanes of traffic. The Seattle disaster was 4 lanes or 2 in each direction and that was biggest boring machine in human history. So Eric I cant reconcile your plan and realities of the cost of digging a tunnel in downtown Vancouver and under our sea to the North Shore.

  10. Then build a tunnel!
    The ‘very small increase … another Seabus”. Can’t you see how utterly unappealing this is for billions in cash?

          1. I think Eric’s point is that tunnel =/= disaster … and Seattle’s disaster doesn’t necessarily make Vancouver’s so.
            We’ve already built one there, so its not exactly terra incognito. Unlike Seattle.

          2. Could you imagine the craziness of building that tunnel for cars. You would have to go so deep because of the water increasing the cost significantly.

  11. Eric, alluvial soils take millennia to accumulate. They are older than our old growth forests. They were here a long, long time before the city was built. The alluvial soils in the Lower Mainland are the deepest most productive soils for growing food in Canada. They occupy only a fraction of 1% of the land area of the province, or 1/6th of all agricultural soils, and are therefore exceedingly rare. Food producing land occupies only 4.9% of the land area of the province. Thank the god of your choice that they are protected. Once they are gone, they are gone forever.
    But you want more roads to keep the traffic flowing. Big roads, like 10 lanes wide. Roads to where, exactly? The spud patches of Richmond? The veggie / berry fields of Delta? Subdivisions and malls and even more traffic inevitably follow big, wide roads.
    Allowing this rationale to fulfil itself, you thus propose obliterating a rare resource as though zoning for its protection is a commie plot to stand in the way of the discredited economics of highgrading and development of the cheapest possible quality. Thank the god of your choice you are not a planner, or worse, an elected official. Having ignored all the arguments up to now about our existing inefficient urban land use, it won’t take long to plaster the ALR with sprawling plastic subdivisions and LA-scale freeways to the border and Hope if you had your way. Then, upon running out of land, to fill in the ocean for more sprawling plastic subdivisions and freeways. You seem to have little interest in considering the notion of allowing planning for the future to define our actual land and resource limits and habitation carrying capacity, and to create a more resilient and intensive agricultural industry, including incrementally limiting the very tenuous existing supply chains to not only to produce more food for ourselves, but to export more crops to other jurisdictions.
    You issue confusing logic when in one paragraph you advocate rolling huge roads (therein the worst form of development) across the ALR, then in another to advocate a more sensible policy to rezone for townhouses and mid-rises. You’re not going to have it both ways with readers like me.

  12. MB – As I said, I like the country. I did not and do not propose obliterating anything, as you correctly stated. If you must keep the ALR then people will live further out. I know the ‘burbs are an anathema to you but people gotta live. If they have to live further out because there ain’t nowhere reasonably priced close to downtown, then they will expect infrastructure and demand it of their leaders.
    Many people do not want to live in a box in the sky.
    It’s the same in Toronto with their Greenbelt. That’s why the 401 to Cambridge and Kitchener is so busy. So build highways and bridges or put in frequent fast trains.
    The present system exacerbates the increasing rising cost of homes in the inner city and the present excessive commercial property tax rate exacerbates the cost of neighbourhood retail. Both only serve to perpetuate the monika of Vancouver being increasingly a resort city for the better off.
    Nostalgia for a nice little town with carefully designed traffic bottleneck around the periphery serving as de-facto drawbridges is futile.

    1. Eric, you gave the answer already: townhouses and mid-rises. I would add low-rise and well-designed infill. Then you seemed to backtrack to “boxes in the sky” or farm-hopping sprawl.
      Your acknowledgement of the middle ground is appreciated, but you need to stick to it.
      It bears repeating that the population density of the Burrard Peninsula averages 2,783 people per square kilometre. It varies city-to-city and neighbourhood-to neighbourhood, of course, with Vancouver’s average of 5,249 persons / km2 at the top and Coquitlam’s 1,034 p / km2. New West has a surprising density of 4,221 p / km2.
      Even with Vancouver’s higher density, there are tens of km2 of land available for infill (“gentle” density) or incremental replacement at the stroke of a pen on detached home lots. The Borough of Kensington-Chelsea (UK) achieves a density 2.5 times greater largely with housing like this……
      If Vancouver’s population density, transit services and smaller road standards achieved the same as the borough’s, then the Burrard Peninsula could accommodate 4.8+ million people in six cities without resorting to Manhattan’s heights or Atlanta’s massive freeways. That’s more than quadrupling the population while fostering a humane neighbourhood character.
      When you quadruple the local population without consuming even one additional m2 of the ALR then the surrounding farmland can be used more productively and profitably to feed the city. The food security cycle is strengthened.

      1. If you build it …If. The second picture you show is, of course, Bywater Street, in the Royal Borough, just off King’s Road. Sloan Ranger territory. About $3.5 million per.
        So, push city hall to build a whole bunch of them and then maybe all those people out in Langley and Morgan Heights will move back into town. Hurry up though because the land out in the ‘burbs is being cleared for plastic boxes with a nice little Kia Soul out front that will zip them and the kiddies up to Oak Street in 30 minutes, as we speak.

      2. My grandfather’s old terrace house is less than 50m off Kings Road and sold for a lot less than that 18 moths ago (sadly, not to me….it was a lottery dream at best, but would’ve been nice to keep it in the family which now number over 300 Canadians). You cannot justifiably transfer London’s prices to Vancouver. Moreover, no one is suggesting 100% masonry construction here.
        What IS appropriate is the density, urban design and attached home character. Attached single family homes have been mostly ignored here, and I suspect they will be snatched up very quickly, especially those with a basement mortgage helper.
        Thirty minute commute from Langley? Maybe if Kia made helicopters.

          1. He left for Canada in 1921 after serving in the English Army in WWI. His father, mother brother and sister continued to live in the upper two floors of their Chelsea terrace house.
            You attempted to imply that the housing prices in London would be transferable to Vancouver. I think by comparison you need to consider what a detached home on a standard 4,000 ft2 Vancouver lot would be worth in Chelsea. My guess it would approach 5m pounds, or quadruple Vancouver’s west side prices.

    2. One could reasonable ask: What is the most comfortable density Vancouver should achieve?
      I suggest the housing ‘streetwall’ density of Chelsea could be broken up a bit more than indicated above, and a series of new small and medium parks and pedestrian ways could add a bit more ventilation to the city and offer preteens a public backyard until they outgrow the need and range farther afield.
      In addition, the majority of these terraced houses have only a 3m front yard setback, they do have a backyard usually with high brick walls that accommodate the all-important privacy you need, and space for preschoolers, when living in a neighbourhood dense enough to harbour all the amenities one needs. Because the houses from the period indicated are masonry, they afford very good sound attenuation from the neighbours next door (essentially, two independently load-bearing walls, no shared party walls). Up and down suites would be a different matter, but then that is something most of us are already familiar with. That too can be dealt with through construction techniques that dampen sound.
      To reiterate, you do not have to carve up the Green Zone or Manhattanize to accommodate much more growth.

  13. ” If you must keep the ALR then people will live further out”
    You can’t say this, while advocating for massive rezonings in Vancouver. You get it, but you keep arguing against yourself.

    1. +1 Vancouver certainly isn’t so dense as to have any difficulty accomodating whoever might otherwise sprawl to the burbs … if the policy allows it.
      Lets not be our own worst enemies please!

    2. Practically; massive rezoning is not going to occur quickly. Advocating for it is fine but people need to be housed now. That’s why you can move in to your new suburban townhouse today.
      You can’t just say no. And, I’m not arguing, I’m stating facts. People want town-homes and they want them very soon. Unless we change into a dictatorship, they will buy them where they find them.

  14. N – there must be substantial information on the Hong Kong tunnels under the bay. This is also an ocean ship channel. I believe the methods used are pre-fabricated steel tubes. This has been engineered for over a hundred years. There’s a railway in the Detroit River, 1910. Another is going in between Denmark and Germany, although it’s increasing looking like the traffic will be slowed northbound by immigration checks.

    1. Eric, you still haven’t factored in the huge cost of the tunnel, look at seattle. they had to use the biggest excavator in history and that was for 4 lanes or 2 lanes in each direction. I am assuming you want the same? How would you accomplish this for a reasonable cost.

      1. Last I heard the TBM, named Bertha, is still stuck. Due to its 18+ metre diameter the tunnel is likely well over $400 million US a km …. for four lanes of cars. Talk about a waste of resources.
        The twin 6m Canada Line tunnels move far more people at less capital cost.

        1. They also reduced the scope of the project by not having a downtown entrance to the tunnel. Thus completely undermining the purpose of the project which was to get people not drive on side streets to get downtown lol.

          1. you need to read your own links:
            “Underwater tunnels are either bored or immersed: tunnel boring is common for deepwater tunnels longer than 4 or 5 kilometres (3.1 mi), while immersion is commonly used for tunnels which cross relatively shallow rivers or harbours.” The burrard inlet is not shallow as shown in my previous link.

          2. I would add that soil conditions also dictate the engineering design. The deep, soft an highly saturated Delta soils are over 100 m deep and this would preclude boring.

  15. Insights West.
    “Half of Metro Vancouver residents (51%) support the proposal to replace the Massey Tunnel with a new tolled bridge, while one third (32%) are opposed and 17% are not sure.
    Support for the proposal is highest in Surrey (63%), and among men (59%), Metro Vancouverites aged 35-54 (58%) and residents who drive to school or work (55%).”

    1. Never mind I found it. Yes they support it, but don’t want to pay for it, what a surprise. I would have preferred if the question was which would you support expanding highways or public transit?

    2. It’s no surprise that the most car-saturated communities will support an increase in car infrastructure. The question is at what level of overcapacity and waste do you draw the line?
      As usual, transit is treated like an expensive toy by comparison to mega-freeways.

Subscribe to Viewpoint Vancouver

Get breaking news and fresh views, direct to your inbox.

Join 7,293 other subscribers

Show your Support

Check our Patreon page for stylish coffee mugs, private city tours, and more – or, make a one-time or recurring donation. Thank you for helping shape this place we love.

Popular Articles

See All

All Articles