B.C.'s new transit plan ends need for Gateway

The provincial government’s $14-
billion transit plan “eliminates the rationale” for the $4-billion Gateway Program, according to Eric Doherty.

Doherty, director at the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation and member of the Livable Region Coalition, has long opposed B.C. transportation minister Kevin Falcon’s Gateway Program—which includes the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and expansion of Highway 1—because he believes it will neither relieve congestion nor increase transit ridership.

Falcon, a long-time Cloverdale resident, has countered these comments by stating his oft-repeated mantra: “Doing nothing is not an option.”

On January 14, Falcon and Premier Gordon Campbell jointly announced the transit plan, which includes the promise of completion of the previously stalled Evergreen SkyTrain line to the Tri-Cities, a rapid-transit line to UBC, an upgrade to the Expo Line, and a $1.6-billion investment in 1,500 new buses. The plan also pledges to ease traffic congestion and increase transit ridership to more than 400 million trips a year.

An estimated $11.1 billion in new funding is needed to complete the plan. The province has committed $4.75 billion; the plan calls for other levels of government to come up with the rest.

“It is providing a better way for people—particularly for the Highway 1 [users]—to get around the region,” Doherty told the Straight by phone. “In theory they could, and who knows, maybe they are already planning on abandoning Gateway and using the money to fund all this. They have certainly eliminated the reason for expanding Highway 1 and twinning the Port Mann Bridge.”

Dale Steeves, the premier’s communications director, did not make Campbell available for an interview by the Straight’s deadline. Falcon did not respond to a Straight message.

Jim Houlahan, vice president at Canadian Auto Workers Union Local 111, which organizes bus drivers in the region, said he agreed with Doherty.

“Gateway is the biggest, dumbest decision we could make,” Houlahan said by phone. “It is a five-year, short-term solution with dramatic adverse effects.”




Jan 17, 2008 at 8:56am

And what does B.E.S.T. know about transit? Nada! Gateway will be needed because Campbell's "back-of-an-envelope" transit planning is so bad, it will force 1000's of previous transit customers into their cars!

The $14 billion transit fiasco is based on two proven obsolete transit modes - subways & Rapid Bus!

Subways just do not attract much new ridership, thats why they are avoided at all costs. In Europe in the 60's & 70's, many European cities abandoned their surface tramway's in favour of building subways. After the new subways were built, ridership dropped! It seemed the new subways were expensive & inconvenient to use, taking the car was easier. It was this failure of subways to attract ridership that lead directly to the Renaissance of modern LRT, operating on-street/at-grade, with over 100 new lines built since the late 70's and over 100 new LRT systems under construction and or in advanced stages of planning.

In Spain today, LRT is being built for $5 million/km.; in Germany under $10 million/km. RAV may soon prove that subways may force people off public transit!

RapidBus has been around a very long time, yet it has continued to fail its promoters expectations. Ottawa's busways (needed for RapidBus) ultimately cost more than originally planned for LRT and the system saw a ridership decline of almost 16% in its first decade of operation. Ottawa, then opted for diesel LRT and now desperately wants LRT to help solve its congestion problems.

Buses suffer from the 'Looser Cruiser' syndrome and a bus, whether trolley, express, and guided, has a very poor record in attracting ridership.

In Adelaide, their O-Bahn guided bus (the ultimate of RapidBus), though just a little cheaper than LRT to install, yet ridership only increased the same as conventional bus routes. The 80 year old Glenelg tramway, using 80 year old cars (not unlike Vancouver's heritage streetcar), saw ridership increases much higher than Rapidbus.

Where has RapidBus worked?

Sorry transit types, Campbell's transit plans benefits no one, except Bombardier Inc., the sole supplier of SkyTrain and the City of Vancouver, which is getting hugely expensive subways at the expense of the regional taxpayer. There is every chance that after $14 billion is spent, more people may abandon the transit system for the car.


Jan 20, 2008 at 9:34am

As a West Coast Express rider I am always amused by Mr Doherty's pronouncements on transit. In his paper on transit alternatives to Gateway, he criticized commuter rail systems with park and ride facilities as an instrument of urban sprawl. Unfortunately, someone in Victoria may have been listening to him, since there is no expansion of the West Coast Express train service in the BC Govt's announcement, let alone any decision to put in additional commuter rail services to the south side of the Fraser River.

In taking that position Mr Doherty is hardly alone however. The Transport 2021 papers prepared in the early 1990s, which formed the basis for the LRSP's transportation elements, did not want any transportation system provided to the "valley towns" which was too quick or too convenient. The idea was that if one could commute from, say White Rock, to a job location in Vancouver or Burnaby or North Vancouver too easily this would promote urban sprawl, exactly what Mr Doherty is saying. The implication is clear. Any transportation to the suburbs of Metro which passes the livable region test must either take a long time, or be unpleasant. Hence the preference for light over heavy rail, even for longer distance trips.

Consider this fact. Translink's own studies showed that once the billion dollar plus Evergreen line is completed to Coquitlam Centre, it will take about 70 minutes to go from there to downtown on three different LRT lines. A #160 bus does this trip in 45 minutes. This is what all our local politicians want, to restrain travel of any kind in the name of preventing urban sprawl. They euphemistically call this "transportation choice". What they mean is, you can pay several hundred thousand more for a house closer to your job, or say good bye to another two hours of leisure time per day. That's your choice.

As for the basic premise that these or any other transit schemes eliminate the need for highway expansion, that idea is really beyond me. More of both are needed, and both will cost major dollars. Perhaps the best element of the Premier's announcement is simply the big $14 billion price sticker. Surely any reasonable person can now see that it's beyond the merely absurd for anyone to suggest that the $4 billion on Gateway is somehow sucking up all the cash needed for transit which will cost more than three times that amount.

Finally, Gateway critics such as those at Burnaby City Hall have made the point that one should ask what the alternatives to Gateway are that could be financed with the same amount of money. Good point, but is turnaround fair play? What kind of freeway system could Vancouver have for $14 billion? Presumably three and half times Gateway. If a fifteenth billion were spent on express buses, how many places could one get to quickly even without a car? But then, getting there quickly would violate the LRSP, wouldn't it?


Jan 21, 2008 at 5:05pm

What the West Coast Express has done is take Vancouver's urban sprawl up eastward on the North side of the Fraser River. By offering heavily subsidized 'commuter rail', people seeking cheaper housing, flocked along the rail route. This has brought traffic chaos and urban sprawl to Mission and Abbotsford.

As commuter Rail (heavy rail version) is next to useless as a transit alternative, the only option is the car for local trips.

I asked a Realtor in the region, around 2001, about how many former metro Vancouver residents he thought moved to take advantage of the "re-election express"; is answer astounded me. "Over 2,000"!

Just to set the record straight, Vancouver doesn't operate LRT, but light-metro; SkyTrain is a light-metro; the proposed Evergreen Line is LRT in name only , as it as expensive as a light-metro and may soon be converted to SkyTrain, just like Clark did with the Millennium Line!

Gateway is proof, that TransLink's transit planning, like BC Transit before, is a grand failure. With over $5 billion spent on SkyTrain, there is no evidence of modal shift (from car to SkyTrain). The light-metro is so expensive, that it can't be extended into the Fraser Valley, giving rise to the myth that "there isn't the density for rapid transit in the Fraser Valley."

Gateway and 'commuter rail' underlines the complete failure of livable regions and a viable public transit, yet Campbell and Falcon are spending $14 billion on more of the same.

Again I ask, "Where has rapid bus worked?"


Apr 19, 2009 at 7:33pm

If you want to have your say on TransLink's transportation plans, why don't you do so on bepartoftheplan.ca....