April 7, 2017

Port Mann Parameter: How to measure the cost of bike lanes

It happened again today: someone mentioned that if only we hadn’t spent so much on bike lanes, we could afford to fund … (fill in blank).  In this case, repairing the Lost Lagoon fountain.
Bikeways, greenways, any way but roadways, have become for some a rhetorical measurement of waste, kind of like the fast ferries.  Such examples are typically fodder for the Right.  (Try googling “Bateman poodle.”)  These days, Trump has given the Left equal opportunity: (Google “Mar-a-Lago cost-per-trip, Meals-on-Wheels.”)
Here’s a local example:

City councillor Melissa DeGenova said Saturday that at a rally earlier in the week she heard from many residents along that stretch who don’t want to pay the money (to bury utility lines on Point Grey Road) , and are upset the sidewalk expansion is happening at all. They believe the money could be better spent elsewhere, such as affordable housing for homeless or improvements to the Downtown Eastside …

Too much to ask residents of some of the most expensive property in Canada to spend $80,000 per house – but really they were objecting to the cost of the PGR sidewalk rebuild in the first place.
By the way, how much was that?

Up to $6.4 million.

Sound like a lot?  Let’s compare:

Dollars spent to maintain the bridges this winter
This winter had more snow and storms than most, with 22 days of snowfall on the Port Mann Bridge. TI Corp, which maintains and operates the bridge, spent about $5 million to operate the cable collar system on the Port Mann Bridge. Last winter, the cost to operate the system was $300,000.

To repeat: TCI “spent about $5 million to operate the cable collar system on the Port Mann Bridge.”
Note that that was only a one-time operating cost, not a permanent capital improvement like Point Grey Road.  But it does make for a handy new unit of measurement: The Port Mann Ice Removal Parameter.
For instance: Phase 2 of the Point Grey greenway cost one and a quarter PMIRs.
And this counter-lament: ‘If only the Port Mann Bridge had been designed properly, we could have spent the money filling in the gaps in the regional bike network.’
Or we could continue to use poodles:

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  1. If I had some mad money, I’d take a page out of Saul Alinsky’s book: ‘Rules for Radicals’, and bus a pile of homeless people to PGR, or deposit them in front of a billionaire’s house. Bus all the beggars out of Gastown and deposit them elsewhere. That would shake up the status quo.

  2. There was way more fuss made over two $3000 bike pumps which were installed by CoV. CBC ran an article on it as did Vancouver Courier and Scout magaxine. Then outrage from The Province in an opinion piece rant and in a CTV news article.
    Jordan Bateman expressed outrage and the story went viral on Twitter. CTV spent 3 minutes on this on the 5:00 news. How much does 3 minutes on CTV cost in prime time? I would guess well over $6000. The mind boggles.

    1. It kind of reveals both the pro-automobile/oil industry bias of the mainstream media as well as the idea that cycling is somehow not a legitimate form of transportation in their view.

    2. Hahah, that article is actually hilarious. I live very close to the pump at Union and Hawks, and I’ve seen it working exactly once since it was installed.
      So, the initial outrage was dumb, but the how shit these pumps are is also somewhat worthy of outrage. For $3,000 (plus a bunch of overhead and labour) we’ve basically bought an ugly and misplaced bollard.
      The Straight’s “a $6,000 expenditure on two durable, high-quality bicycle pumps along well-travelled cycling routes is not a big deal” conclusion cracks me up…
      This is just like the Main St. Poodle. Kind of a waste of public art funding, not outrageous in principal, but awful in execution. Looking at the Poodle as I drove past today, it’s been neglected. It’s covered in algae, sorrowfully in need of a pressure washing and/or painting.

  3. One doesn’t have to go far to find a much bigger subsidy for drivers. Here is Union street close to where one of the pumps was installed at a cost of $3000.
    I estimate that the land value of just 2 of the free street parking spots is about $100,000 and would have a carrying cost of over $3000 per year. Where is the outrage over this giveaway?

  4. Based on a simple number crunch, approx. 70% of the tolls collected across the Port Mann during those snow days that required ice-intervention, paid for the ice-intervention.
    In other words, out of a blended average of $3.62 for each vehicle crossing (because tolls vary by vehicle type), $2.53 went to de-icing as they travelled across the bridge. Or about $5 per day if they round-trip travelled over the bridge went into paying for de-icing.
    So only about $1.10 per toll went into covering operating, debt servicing, and other contractual obligations. Glad it doesn’t snow all that much in this region!

  5. It’s funny that people adopt the neoliberal P3 ethos that infrastructure should “make money” when it suits their narratives.

    1. Excellent investment. The 6m spent on phase 1 for the cycling improvements saw a five fold increase in use. I am sure the 6m being spent on pedestrian improvements in phase 2 will be similarly successful.
      With the Port Mann, we spent all that money and daily users went down. So much so that annual subsidies are required to compensate for the lack of toll revenue. How does one do an ROI in that scenario? Probably explains some things about the lack of a business case for the GMT replacement project.

      1. Even on its worst day the Port Mann Bridge is covering a higher percentage of its cost than Point Grey Road bike lanes. It’s not hard to beat zero.

        1. You appear to be only considering the tolls, which only exist on one of these routes.
          Wouldn’t it be better to do a more complete analysis?
          If you add in operating costs, and debt servicing costs, PGR wins. We aren’t having to subsidize it to the same extent every year.
          Now consider health benefits. PGR goes positive, while the bridge goes further negative.

        2. I freely admit I said that Ron, to point out the rank hypocrisy of many posters here. You know, the Left who blasts P3s yet suddenly discover that neoliberal religion when they think it proves a useful tool promoting their favoured means of transportation (though does it rally count as transportation, when it seems mostly to consist of cruising around with lycrabros on the weekends?)

        3. But people aren’t suggesting transportation systems make money – as per your earlier post. What many are concerned about is the huge drain in our collective wealth caused by people dependent on driving. What many are concerned about is our provincial government throwing buckets of money at pet projects that have highly suspect business cases and fly in the face of decades of regional planning.
          Can you provide examples the religious enlightenment of which you speak?

          There are certainly people who get exercise riding bikes. And? What about people who get exercise at the gym… and drive there? Does that make a car transportation and a bike a toy?
          I smell hypocrite.

        4. You spoke a few hours too soon. Clark has capped tolls at $500 per year and Horgan has promised to eliminate them. Regardless, the percentage argument is rather poor. Even before reducing tolls, the Pt Mann was costing taxpayers $100 million per year as the tolls don’t even come closr to paying the cost.

        5. @ Bob
          Re: cost recovery. Are you seriously comparing an elephant to a mouse and claiming the mouse costs society more from whatever perspective?
          Re: P3. The white elephant known as Port Mann was not a P3. The private consortium pulled out after the financial meltdown. The toll contract came after the taxpayers assumed all the project construction risks, albeit at a half percent discount on financing through the superior public sector credit rating.
          The only remaining point in your comments is to take jabs at progressives. How boring.

    2. Just the other day, Eric posted:
      “You are welcome to travel by your chosen mode and you are welcome to promote your chosen mode(s).
      I will not attempt to encourage you to travel using my chosen mode. Neither will I complain as to whichever mode you, or anyone else choses, even though I know I will be paying substantially for transit infrastructure and running costs though all manner of taxes.”
      Wait a minute. You said you wouldn’t complain. Furthermore, since the PGR improvements were paid out of Vancouver municipal taxes, and you describe yourself as a resident of Surrey, and as such not a Vancouver taxpayer, you aren’t paying for this anyway.
      So what changed? Do we have multiple posters using the name Eric?

      1. Nothing changed. If you read the posts they are perfectly clear. As much as it might be tempting to twist the meanings the posts are clear. You are assuming too much.
        My post explains that the cost of the Point Grey project is actually over $12 million.
        That is the point and that is all that I am saying. No complaint mentioned. Just highlighting a point that is important. No wonder this is such a fabulously wealthy city.

        1. In a post about bike lanes (see the title of the original post), you should be honest and note that the $12m you go on about isn’t for bike lanes. It is for a greenway. Half of which went to cycling infrastructure.
          Just highlighting a point that is important.

        2. What is not honest is adding in the cost of the pedestrian improvements (phase 2) and not clarifying that they aren’t for the cycling improvements, which is what the original post was about.
          But it is all good, since you are providing real world examples of the same point raised in the original article, whether you meant to or not.

        3. I never said what they were for. I never said the work was being done for anything specific. If you have an issue it’s with Gord’s headline.

        4. You are being ridiculous. Nothing wrong with the headline, it defined the topic. The fact that you didn’t clarify that your additional 6m wasn’t for the bike lanes is exactly the point. You insinuated that it was, by an error of omission. Exactly the kind of behaviour described in the original article.
          You’re still digging your hole.

        5. Eric posted “My post explains that the cost of the Point Grey project is actually over $12 million.”
          It is actually more like 18m if you read the reports. You are missing 5m for the water and sewer work.
          I figured that if you are going to post in a thread about bike lanes how much the city spent on associated (but not cycling related) projects you could include it too.
          Or, we could give props to the City for doing these projects concurrently and thus saving money over doing them separately.

        6. I can understand the difference. When it is required Sewer and Water work is essential.
          Cycling infrastructure construction and pedestrian sidewalks rebuilding and expanded along an established roadway is a little bit different. It’s primarily cosmetic and elective.
          In fact, there a quite a few streets, right there in Kits/Point Grey, where not even a pedestrian sidewalk yet exists. This was a choice, something on a wish list.
          But, if you want to throw it in then I stand corrected. It’s $18 million, at least because I’m not able to say yet whether this includes the new LED street lights.
          Some of those new LED lamps are really too bright, you know. OK if you intend to get people to move along and not hang around and slip into unwanted activities but somehow extremely unfriendly. The opposite of cozy.
          Have you priced them too?

      2. I strongly support you in you efforts. Just thinking of the possibilities. According to the City of Vancouver there are 1,421 kilometers of roads in Vancouver.
        If the Point Grey improvements for all users cost $12 million then to create the same beautiful green and accessible conditions across the city, at just $12 million a kilometer, would only cost $17,052,000,000 ($17.052 billions).
        It’s great to have a perspective. Maybe next time Gregor is high-fiving it with Justin he could see what he’d like to chip in.

        1. You will be glad to know (well, you would be if you lived in Vancouver and paid taxes here) that there isn’t a plan to turn every km of road into greenways. There is a plan to build more greenways, though. See the published maps.
          It’s great to keep your perspective when complaining about other’s transportation choices, especially after declaring you wouldn’t complain about such choices.

        2. What makes you think that I don’t pay Vancouver taxes? I might have a condo there, or a workshop, or a studio, or an office or I might even share space in the Parker Building or loft on Water Street. Maybe my advisors rent me office space above the Pendulum Gallery in the HSBC Building. Let me assure you that I do pay taxes in your fair city.
          Pointing out costs is not complaining, it’s pointing them out. If you feel embarrassed by the $12 million then I can understand that it does seem ridiculously high. I expect others do too. I know others do to because the subject comes up in conversation with friends and associates that live in Kits.
          I’m sure that the $12 million is something Vision and Gregor are very proud of and will be telling everyone all about it during the next campaign. I expect we will all be talking about it.

        3. “what makes you think…”
          “I might…
          “I might even…”
          How would we know? All we know is what you have previously posted, and which we have taken at face value. Your words define you. If you don’t like the picture they paint, well, sorry about that.

        4. Did you ever hear the expression, “Don’t shoot the messenger”?
          How many times are going to try to?
          I could also ask you if you’ve ever heard about foot in mouth tendencies.

    3. It’s odd that most people accept curbs, pavement and sidewalks and yes, lighting on all of our city streets, but when this is part of a seaside greenway completion project, this is somehow excessive and wasteful of taxpayer dollars? The ROI in health improvements alone make active transportation projects pay for themselves. As opposed to the drain on society which excessive motordom inflicts.

      1. FYI, the ITE’s Transportation and Health Initiative statement of intent, just released a few days ago:

    4. Post
    1. Did Horgan just talk about cancelling bridge tolls for provincial infrastructure, or also say no to mobility pricing? Seems to me the Mayor’s Council is more focused on the latter.

  6. If John and his NDP go one step further I might vote for them, give me a couple of bucks every time I drive over a bridge; especially the exciting new 15 minute Burrard Bridge!
    That way you can keep everyone at TREO employed and all the drivers, the vast majority of the population, will be very happy.

    1. Eric, with these campaign announcements someone needs to inform you that your commercial vehicle commute just got a lot more congested. Cheaper driving = more people on the road. More road space + cheaper / no tolls = more people on the road.
      Sorry for the bad news.

    2. Eric, which 15 min Burrard Bridge are you referring to? It never takes me more than 3 minutes to get across. I predict that motor vehicle crossings times will be unchanged pre and post upgrade – as was the case with the 2009 upgrade. In any case, safety has been improved for all road users.

  7. Shifting to the other bridge project for a moment, Stephen Rees has posted three very interesting sets of info on his blog that question the technical feasibility and action by the Port behind their bridge support motives.
    The first one is geotechnical. This one consideration may render this project impossible to build. An engineer compares the deep alluvial soil conditions under Massey to several other projects and finds them troublesome mainly because there doesn’t seem to be any bearing capacity even at 335 metres below the surface. The subsurface conditions way down are equivalent to a bowl of porridge. He surmises this is why the original engineers opted for a tunnel.
    Then the Musqueam are lining up against it because of all the usual reasons of neglect, lack of consultation for one despite 20 years since the supreme court decision that nailed consultation to the wall as the highest priority for development in aboriginal territory. Obviously First Nations do not speak with one voice as the Tsawwassen support the project.
    The third provides evidence that the Port allegedly rigs its hours of operations so that truck traffic is forced onto the 99 and local arterials during high-traffic daylight hours, therein jacking the congestion. The Port does not run a 24 / 7 operation despite being one of the largest operations on the continent, and the busiest in Canada. It may be that the BC Libs are willing to dig taxpayers four billion further into the hole on a bridge that may sink into the muck just to address gerrymandered commercial demand. This may have been discussed on PT before, but it’s hard to ignore the evidence Stephen presents in succession with the other points above.
    This bridge may sink in more ways than one.

    1. It should be mentioned that the Libs have not released the full results of the geotechnical report on Massey for public scrutiny by the time the quoted engineer wrote about it.

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