There is no single solution to addressing traffic gridlock on the North Shore, according to a long-awaited report on improving access and transportation in the region.
The report rejected the idea of a wider bridges, saying a new span would simply fill with more traffic in a few years. Its number-one recommendation was to reduce reliance on the Trans-Canada Highway for local trips by “creating more east-west travel options.”
“There is not one single cause of traffic congestion on the North Shore, and there is not one solution to address congestion problems,” the report says.
Instead of recommending more roads, the report focuses on developing a coordinated plan that includes improving the infrastructure for transit, cycling and walking to “make them viable alternatives to the auto for more trips.”
As well, the plan would include steps such as addressing congestion at key pinch-points on North Shore bridgeheads, focusing future development in town centres, and implementing programs “to encourage behavioural change that reduces reliance on automobiles.”
Bowinn Ma is MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale and chair of the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project.
She said the planning process started with 270 ideas drafted by professional staff, politicians and the public.
The report is the distillation of those ideas into ones that are feasible, responsible and a way forward, Ma said at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler.
“Now it up to governments to talk about how they commit themselves.”
The report singled out land use oriented around cars as the top problem facing planners. Also cited was a road network that reduces choice and increases congestion, transit that isn’t competitive with the car for many trips, road demand exceeding capacity at times and at pinch points, and the absence of managing road use.
“The impact of road congestion is felt regularly by people travelling by transit and by auto,” the report says. “Long queues near the North Shore bridgeheads happen daily, and our analysis shows that travel across the Second Narrows Bridge during rush hours often takes three to four times as long as other times of the day.”
The report notes that a five-minute, seven-kilometre trip on the Upper Levels from Lonsdale to south of the bridge can take 15 minutes and often much longer during rush hours.
“Incidents on the bridges and highway further increase delays,” the report says.
In its analysis of transportation options, the report determined that widening existing bridges over Burrard Inlet wasn’t an option due to “structural limitations.
“Neither bridge is scheduled for replacement in the near term, and a third bridge crossing is not included in any transportation plans.”
Some transportation improvements taking place include TransLink’s new Marine-Main B-Line bus that could save riders up to 30 minutes when travelling from Park Royal to Phibbs Exchange when it opens in 2019.
Next year will also see an improvement in SeaBus service when frequency is increased to every 10 minutes during rush hours. The change is expected to reduce average wait times by about one-third and increase passenger capacity by 1,500 per hour.
Mathew Bond, serving his first term as councilor in the District of North Vancouver, said the report shows an “impressive level of coordination” among the various governments and organizations involved in transportation, such as municipalities, First Nations, the provincial and federal governments along with the Port Authority and TransLink.
One of the report’s findings, he said, is a link between the slow rate in housing growth and congestion.
“We’re adding more jobs than people,” he said at the UBCM in Whistler. “People can’t afford to live in North Vancouver, but now have to drive to fill all those jobs on the North Shore.”
The Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project looked at but rejected five frequently suggested ideas to improve access and mobility:
Add more lanes to existing bridges
The province has already looked into widening the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge and the Lions Gate Bridge. Structural limitations mean the bridges cannot be expanded.
Replace one bridge with a wider one
Initially, congestion would be relieved, but would return in few years as more people used their cars. The road network connecting to the bridge would have to be expanded, which would reduce livability in nearby neighbourhoods.
Adapt the CN Rail Bridge for transit, walking and cycling
The bridge can’t be used for buses or bikes because part of it raises and lowers for ships. Most often, it is in a raised position to accommodate marine traffic.
Create a bus-only lane on the bridges
A single lane dedicated to buses would increase congestion rather than relieve it. Delays, the report says, are mostly due to bottlenecks at bridgeheads rather than on the bridge decks.
Build gondolas between Phibbs Exchange, Capilano University and Maplewood
The costs would be high, the report found, and would not create considerable time savings compared to using buses. It would also mean another transfer for commuters.