Eric Doherty and Andrew Murray: TransLink’s freeway push must be stopped

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      By Eric Doherty and Andrew Murray

      TransLink has been crying poverty as of late, claiming that it does not have the money to keep a third SeaBus in operation. Never mind completing the long-promised Evergreen Line or providing enough buses to implement the planned U-Pass expansion. However, TransLink has lots of cash when it comes to freeway expansion.

      TransLink is running full speed ahead with what’s being called the “United Blvd. Extension – North Fraser Perimeter Rd. Phase 1”. It would cost $150 to $175 million for a little stub of freeway and an overpass that competes with the Evergreen Line, for both money and passengers. It is also a climate crime, as government spending on roadway expansion is one of the major drivers of increasing greenhouse-gas emissions in Canada.

      In case you have never heard of the North Fraser Perimeter Road, it is Premier Gordon Campbell’s little-known plan to push a freeway through downtown New Westminster.

      The North Fraser Perimeter Road freeway is reminiscent of what Mayor Tom “Terrific” Campbell had in mind for downtown Vancouver in the early 1970s. Tom Campbell got run over by a major freeway revolt. Vancouver city council is now considering tearing down his legacy—the half-kilometre-long Georgia Viaduct, which never became the network of freeways he dreamed of.

      Gordon Campbell gained de-facto control of TransLink when he kicked local politicians off its board and got his allies, such as the Vancouver Board of Trade, to help appoint the new TransLink board. As should be expected given the corporate interests who appointed them, the board is pushing ahead with changing TransLink from focusing primarily on transit to bulldozing communities and farms for freeways.

      Of course, the TransLink board does have what it thinks is a great excuse—free money. They have managed to get a promise of $65 million from the federal government, but only if they spend it on this freeway overpass within a very tight deadline. This $65 million is public money that could be used for transit, improving rail infrastructure, or creating a short sea shipping network to get trucks off the road throughout Metro Vancouver. There is no “free money” when it comes to the public purse; the opportunity cost of not spending the money on something else always needs to be considered. If the deadline is missed, $65 million of our money will not evaporate; it will still be available to be spent on something worthwhile.

      There are also local impacts to be considered. Any expanded roadway in a growing urban region like Metro Vancouver will quickly fill up, and create new bottlenecks and increased congestion. In this case, the short stub of freeway would just feed onto the existing street network in New Westminster. It is not much of a mystery what would happen when this “big pipe” narrows down to local streets. Then, of course, the traffic snarls and local pollution become an excuse for the next section of freeway pushing toward downtown New Westminster.

      It is time to demand that our public-transit agency focus on providing public transit. It is impossible to create a good transit system without a clear commitment to putting transit first.

      New Westminster city council may respond to pressure and block this proposal to put a freeway through residential neighbourhoods, including the high-density downtown core. The Mayors’ Council could also refuse to support any financial plan that puts freeway expansion ahead of transit.

      In the early 1970s, when Mayor Tom Campbell’s freeway dreams were smashed, oil was cheap and nobody had ever heard of global warming. Now, the age of cheap oil is over and global warming has become a crisis that threatens our very survival. In the early ’70s people pushed for better transit instead of freeways because they wanted clean air and livable communities. These are still valid reasons, but we have much stronger reasons to do the same today.

      You can submit comments about the proposed North Fraser Perimeter Road freeway on TransLink’s website.

      Open houses are scheduled for this Thursday (November 18), from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (715 McBride Boulevard, New Westminster), and the following Thursday (November 25), from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Place des Arts (1120 Brunette Avenue, Coquitlam).

      Eric Doherty is a member of the Council of Canadians’ Vancouver-Burnaby chapter.

      Andrew Murray is a member of the Council of Canadians’ New Westminster chapter.

      Comments

      40 Comments

      @Eric Doherty

      Nov 16, 2010 at 5:44pm

      TransLink must build freeways in anticipation of the E-Line. Once the E-Line is built, developers will build along it and ironically most people moving to the new developments will end up being drivers :(

      It is counter intuitive, but regional transit like the E-Line leads to the creation of freeways and unsustainable urban sprawl. We would be better off hiring engineers who know what they are doing to run TransLink.

      Technically incompetent individuals with Mickey Mouse business degrees at TransLink clearly do not have it figured out and are in it way over their heads. I don't care how many agree with me, regional transit is stupid.

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      ulala

      Nov 16, 2010 at 6:07pm

      Calling the NFPR a freeway is a just a tad of a stretch. A fully signalized, four lane road on a heavily-used truck route is not a freeway. Replacing the bailey bridge at the New West / Coquitlam border is desparately required.

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      get a Greyhound pass

      Nov 16, 2010 at 9:27pm

      I'm sick and tired of whining individuals who move out to places like Coquitlam to get into an affordable home to nest with the wifey and then complain about the long commute and lack of roads. If you live out in Coquitlam, get yourself a Greyhound pass and quit being a damn freeloader looking for handouts from taxpayers who don't use transit. You are no better than the losers who stalk pedestrians for change at SkyTrain stations.

      How the hell sustainable is it to commute 100 km round trip daily on the E-Line? I work with people who take the Westcoast Express. They are out the door like a flash near quitting time and don't have time to finish up. Others have to cover for them to get the job done. Screw you, you're nothing but a bunch of deadbeats who don't do any work. Stay out in Coquitlam.

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      edoherty

      Nov 16, 2010 at 10:29pm

      ulala, some people say exactly the same thing about the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR), because the province did not throw in enough of our money to build all the freeway interchanges in the first phase of construction. But the plans clearly state that the intention is to eventually create a full freeway, with no signalized intersections. That is what the Gateway Program is about, building freeways.

      If you have documented evidence that the NFPR design and land acquisition is only for a "fully signalized, four lane road" with no phased plans for widening and interchanges then I will gladly admit my error. But I doubt that the NFPR is that much different from the SFPR given the huge price tag for this short section.

      How do you blow $150 to $175 million on a short bit of ordinary road?

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      Andrew

      Nov 16, 2010 at 10:30pm

      ulala--- where does the traffic go when it gets to the New West side? This very expensive bridge does nothing to solve traffic problems except dump it into densely populated neighborhoods. It would be better to close the bailey bridge completely and start giving the Tri-Cities some high quality transit. There is no affordable/realistic solution to traffic in New Westminster except to reduce the number of vehicles. Get over it...

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      Taxpayers R Us

      Nov 16, 2010 at 11:46pm

      Translink - in its entirety - must be stopped.

      How in the sam hell can a transportation authority demand so much and give so little? Every time you hear their name in the media, there's a tax associated with it - property, gas, carbon, you name it.

      And now they have "an idea" and are demanding more.

      You know what - fuck translink. Figure out how to turn a profit like the rest of us and then come back to the table.

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      gatewaysucks.org

      Nov 17, 2010 at 12:32am

      way to call translink out on the carpet. watching them try to spin this should be most amusing. the way transit remains so underfunded in the midst of a massive region-wide roadbuilding binge is like some kind of cruel joke on the poor and working people of this region.

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      Evil Eye

      Nov 17, 2010 at 7:11am

      Here are the sad facts:

      SkyTrain is a metro and too expensive to extend into the suburbs. As SkyTrain is too expensive to extend, the only way to improve regional transportation is to build new highways to accommodate the extra traffic created by densification caused by the metro.

      Thus it can be said building SkyTrain, such as the Evergreen Line promotes new highway construction.

      Light rail, being much cheaper to build and more flexible in operation, can be affordably built into the suburbs, thus providing quality public transit to areas SkyTrain cannot. Being able to penetrate affordably into the suburbs, makes LRT a practical alternative to new highway construction.

      http://www.railforthevalley.com/studies/

      The Rail for the Valley Folks are on the right track, so to speak!

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      ulala

      Nov 17, 2010 at 12:55pm

      Your rhetoric is annoying simplistic: a four lane signalized road is not a freeway. The vast majority of the NFPR (that is the Lougheed Highway, United Blvd, Brunette and Columbia (to Front St) and Columbia after 8th Ave to the Queensborough is already a four lane signalized road.

      Screaming "its a freeway, its a freeway" everytime a new road or highway is built completely distracts from any credibility you may have. There is not a single freeway in BC, and won't be until Highway 1, Port Mann is expanded in 2013.

      All you whiny transit hippies should be cheering the fact that a full roll out of the NFPR will result in the tearing down of the god-awful parkade in New West and tunnelling enclosing the Front St. truck route. Once tunnelled, a more complete, dense and transit orientated residential development can be added to the New West waterfront, from the Quay to the Patullo.

      As for "get a Greyhound pass": tough sh*t. Curl up in your rented 480 sqf2 pad and rot. By the way, how do you think that cheap ass IKEA furniture gets to you? That's right - by truck and rail.

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