New bridge ordered as Massey Tunnel traffic drops sharply

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      In 2008, daily vehicle traffic in the George Massey Tunnel was down 7.5 percent compared to 2004.

      It’s a figure that came out in a regional survey by TransLink. It’s also a number that transportation and land-use expert Gordon Price cited last year on his blog ( when the future of the tunnel was still being discussed. For the director of SFU’s City Program, it’s another indicator of a larger trend, which is the decline of automobile use in the Pacific Northwest.

      Also last year, Price established that traffic coming in and out of Downtown Vancouver in 2010 had fallen to 1965 levels, even though the area had doubled the population and twice the jobs it had in 1965.

      According to the former Vancouver city councillor, these are important premises in looking at the provincial government’s bid to build a new bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel. The decision was made without any commitment to new investments in public transit in the Lower Mainland.

      “If you’re going to vote on one but not the other—and if the decision results that you are now really going to lock yourself to car dependence and industrialization of the green zone—well, that’s a fundamental shift in the direction that this region has had since the 1950s,” Price told the Straight in a September 24 phone interview.

      Price pointed out that roads, bridges, and tunnels are essential parts of a transportation network that also includes transit.

      “You don’t fund them separately. You fund them together as part of a larger strategy,” he said.

      That is why he goes back to his finding that Downtown Vancouver’s traffic in 2010 dropped to 1965 levels. It’s proof, he said, that if governments offer alternatives to driving in the form of transit, cycling, and walking, the demand for more freeways wanes.

      “The strategies that we’ve used to provide a more balanced transportation system have worked,” Price said. “The data is in.”

      Premier Christy Clark has insisted that any new funding for transit in the Lower Mainland must be approved by voters in a referendum, a requirement not imposed on projects like the George Massey Tunnel’s bridge replacement.

      “If it withdraws resources from elsewhere, then you really do have a management crisis for the transportation system,” Price said, “which kind of leads to the feeling that maybe the [referendum] vote is meant to fail so that the tax and capital room—the debt that has to be incurred for massive transportation infrastructure—is vacated by TransLink.”

      Price added: “If it’s so that TransLink has to vacate the capital markets and that we will make up with road infrastructure the growth that otherwise would be served by transit, that’s got to be an essential part of the discussion.”




      Sep 25, 2013 at 11:24am

      Whee! Look how fast I can get to the new bridge! Look how empty the new toll bridge is!! Look at the clear sailing ahead!!!

      Ooops. Old Oak Street Bridge coming up. Bummer. I hate merging, says Christy.

      Build Now

      Sep 25, 2013 at 11:40am

      I commute through the tunnel on a bus every morning and afternoon. Traffic has not dropped. Maybe 20 km away in DT it has but not at the tunnel which is the issue. Not everyone crossing the river goes downtown. I know that little vein in Mayor Moonbeam's temple is gonna pop but he has no say in this one. He can't force his 2020 "green plan" on the whole region.


      Sep 25, 2013 at 12:08pm

      Nonsense.... try going through the tunnel first thing in the morning or mid afternoon. Especially with the
      traffic from the ferry terminal. Mayor Moonbeam is delusional. Design the bridge based on the peaks, not the total volume. Imagine making decisions on construction of buildings like that. All our house structures would collapse the second we have a winter storm. This city compared to ANY advanced city in the world is going backwards. Before we know it, we will be using horse and cart.


      Sep 25, 2013 at 12:44pm

      If peaks use is the problem then just shift the peak. Add a toll at the current peak times so that non-essiencial volume will choose a cheaper time to cross. With very little invested you could get a lot more out of the current system.


      Sep 25, 2013 at 2:38pm

      All the people who are willing to dismiss actual studies by saying "nuh-uh! It looks busy to me!" and talk about their god-given right to have clear freeways everywhere all the time are the reason we can't have nice things (like actual transit).


      Sep 25, 2013 at 2:50pm

      Traffic over a 24 hour period through the Massey Tunnel dropped between 2004 and 2008. That's a fact that can't be denied.

      The anecdotal evidence in the comments suggesting things are just as bad or worse might also be true. It's entirely possible that the peaks have gotten worse while the rest of the day has seen big reductions. The traffic count data probably has time of day measurements to prove/disprove that too.

      My personal observation is that there are a lot more slow vehicles in the tunnel than there used to be. Even when volume isn't an issue I frequently get stuck in a lineup moving well below the speed limit.

      On those occasions when I travel in the afternoon rush to get to dinner in South Delta I've always been impressed at how well the traffic flows. I've endured longer waits for the Oak and Knight St. bridges than for the tunnel.


      Sep 25, 2013 at 2:56pm

      Carlito, seriously, does anyone besides you and Gordon Price really think traffic volume downtown is even close to 1965 standards. More likely, Mr. Price manipulated statistics to fit his agenda. I'm reminded of a book titled "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics". I'm not calling Mr. Price a liar, I'm just saying that he most likely included data that fit his needs and ignored the rest. He'd make a good politician. Probably with the (lack of) Vision party.


      Sep 25, 2013 at 3:38pm

      Tax the world so a few can take a bus. Sounds like a great leftie slogan!

      Evil Eye

      Sep 25, 2013 at 3:58pm

      Gordon Price is not a transportation expert and he knows very little on the subject. It is self proclaimed transportation experts that have landed metro Vancouver in the transit mess it is in and until we hire REAL transportation experts to guide planning, we will forever be in constant gridlock.

      Transit has not worked, that is why TransLink has given away over 110,000 next to free U-passes to bolster ridership figures. It is the U-Pass, coupled with the SkyTrain mini-metro that has driven Translink to near bankruptcy.


      Sep 25, 2013 at 4:29pm

      There is a simple solution to the traffic and transit funding chaos in the Lower Mainland: Toll all the bridges equally! Of course Translink and the Ministry of Highways would have to cooperate since they each own different crossings. However the the tolls should be reasonable, say, $1 per crossing or $2 during peak times and $0.50 for each subsequent crossing thereafter within a 24 hour period. This would be fair to all motorists and doesn't penalize commuters from a specific geographical area just because they happen to be using upgraded infrastructure. The following numbers are not exact but if my memory serves me from previous research these are the average weekday traffic crossing volumes:

      Golden Ears 60,000
      Port Mann 100,000
      Alex Fraser 100,000
      Pattulo 50,000
      Queensborough 70,000
      George Massey 100,000
      Oak Street 90,000
      Knight 80,000
      Iron Workers 100,000
      Lions Gate 60,000
      Sea to Sky 50,000
      TOTAL CROSSINGS 860,000

      Assuming the average commuter makes 2 crossing per day and with my suggestion of $1 for the first crossing and $0.50 thereafter, this would amount to $645,000 of revenue per day. $159,960,000 per YEAR just on weekday volumes and would likely be closer to $200 million with weekends included.

      There's your Skytrain to UBC, the Surrey LRT and a new South Fraser crossing funding that would get paid off within 20 years. This is a no brainer that our spineless politians can't through to the next election cycle. Wimps!