October 9, 2017

Burrard Bridge: Pioneering Intersection Design in North America

In 2014, Vancouver pioneered a first in North American intersection design: protected phasing. At the south end of the Burrard Bridge, each mode – vehicle, bike, ped – was separated and given its own phased lighting though Burrard and Cornwall.
Now the same thing will happen on the north end at Pacific.
The transportation engineers never hesitate in explaining why they could confidently reduce the number of lanes on the centre span of the bridge to vehicles without inducing intolerable congestion.  It’s because traffic flow is determined by the capacity of the intersections – effective meters on demand – not the number of lanes between them.  So they widened the north intersection to create more turn lanes while also extending the merge lane to handle the flow once on the bridge.

Vancouverites didn’t appreciate the significance of Burrard and Cornwall because all the attention was on the changes occurring further down the road – the closure of Point Grey Road to through vehicle traffic.  The spillover from that controversy created a lot of sensitivity among the stakeholders when the full redesign of the bridge and north intersection was being discussed – but the success of the southern intersection alleviated a lot of anxiety.*
That gives us a reason to post one of the best videos produced by Kathleen Corey and Brian Gould – Seacycles – that shows rather than tells how it all works so beautifully.

*What happened to all the outrage over the impact of changes to Point Grey Road?  It’s an old story: carmageddon predicted, and then never occurring.  If anything, traffic from Cornwall to Macdonald seems smoother than ever.  Lives have not been lost.  Chaos has not occurred.  So disappointing.

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  1. The opt-complained about, weed-infested, overgrown median at the south end of the bridge has now been filled in with concrete.
    Rather unfortunate – you’d think they could have at least left a few tree wells and planted some trees there.
    PS – the north-bound right turn traffic lights were functional last night and crews appeared to be removing the orange stantions from the roadway.