August 2, 2017

Eric Doherty's Look Back At Premier Barrett on Massey Tunnel Debacle

Planner and thinker Eric Doherty has written an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun
and provides a historical context on why “urban highway expansion must be the last resort, not the default option”  and why projects like the Massey Tunnel Replacement need to be rethought.  Despite pressure to further expand the road network,  in the 1970’s Premier Dave Barrett and his cabinet ingeniously supported the “SeaBus, still one of the best-loved parts of Greater Vancouver’s transit system. Freeways never flattened Chinatown or cut off the West End from the waterfront…”
Today the thought of a third road crossing to the North Shore is not seen as a priority, and as Eric notes the SeaBus was an inexpensive option instead of a freeway bridge or tunnel. Barrett also was instrumental in the building of the region’s rapid transit and light rail, using the right of ways established by the old interurban railway. And surprisingly, he had envisioned a light rail tunnel to be built beside the Massey Tunnel to serve South Delta and Tsawwassen”.
We forget how transformative transit over freeways was in the 1970’s. The new Premier Horgan “sides with the other 20 Metro Vancouver mayors who oppose the Massey Bridge, and favour funding the rapid-transit lines in the regional transportation plan instead”. It’s telling that “Only one mayor supports defeated premier Christy Clark’s multibillion-dollar plan to build a 10-lane freeway bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel”.
Eric also reminds us that  the “B.C. Liberals once proposed to replace their Massey Tunnel freeway expansion plan with bus lanes and rapid bus. In 2009, then-Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon told the Richmond Review that the bus lanes and tunnel upgrades would be sufficient “for easily another 50 years.” The B.C. Liberals built some of the bus lanes, but cut back on bus service through the tunnel instead of providing the frequent, rapid-bus service they promised”.
Going forward Eric sees the importance of enhanced and increased bus service through the Massey Tunnel and bus lanes connecting Richmond’s Canada Line as necessary.  “Rail transit to Ladner and Tsawwassen, and to the North Shore, may be worthwhile next steps — but buses and SeaBuses work. The much bigger step Horgan needs to take is to reorient transportation priorities across B.C. to reduce the climate pollution that is fuelling ever more destructive wildfires and floods. The B.C. NDP promises to slash greenhouse gas pollution from transportation by 30 per cent in only 13 years, and the federal-provincial Climate Framework commits B.C. to shift infrastructure spending from road expansion to transit to fulfil Canada’s Paris climate commitments”.

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  2. Kudos to Eric Doherty.
    So far the new government has verbally supported the mayor’s plan and therein support transit in a big way in the Metro. One could hope that they recognize that long-term planning is a crucial imperative. They may win votes beyond their no-bridge-tolls promise if they also started work on planning a large south of Fraser LRT network and commuter rail along with completing the core SkyTrain rapid transit system.
    Planning is not expensive, and hopefully the public would understand a forward looking build-out that stretches to mid-century with incremental funding milestones. Many singular plans end up gathering dust on shelves, but a plan that stems from a joint effort with Metro mayors and agencies will not easily be shoved aside, especially if there is public support.