Port Mann twinning will only likely lead to tripling it later
Pete McMartin, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, October 06, 2007
At Premier Gordon Campbell's press conference Friday -- and it was all his, despite double-billing with Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon -- almost all the mayors and MLAs of the south Fraser and northeast suburbs were arrayed below him in a row of chairs, like satraps at the feet of the Great King. I believe some of them genuflected when the premier entered.
Curiously, Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan was not there, even though the event was staged in the Pan Pacific Hotel, on Sam's home turf, and which, as is the mewling custom nowadays, the premier alluded to being on traditional Squamish tribal lands. I thank them for being allowed to trespass.
The premier had come to announce express bus lanes for the new twinned bridge to the Port Mann -- a bridge, the premier boomed, "that will be built!" just in case anyone was getting the idea the government was having second thoughts. It is not.
You will have read elsewhere in the paper about the details of the plan -- express buses as far as Langley, 20 buses in rush hour running across the new bridge at 10 to 15 minute intervals -- and you will have read in Vaughn Palmer's column the political coup de grace Campbell has delivered against the hapless NDP leader Carole James, whose opposition to the twinned bridge has won her the respect of David Suzuki, but not the majority of voters in Surrey, Langley, Coquitlam, Port Moody, Burnaby and Abbotsford.
The premier's glee at this was brought into sharp focus when a television guy lobbed him a soft one, and asked him if he would like to have this an election issue.
"We'll be GLAD to have this as an election issue!" Campbell beamed. The Great King is wise and crafty. The NDP are dead.
So, too, are the naysayers who would oppose the twinned bridge on environmental grounds. Or, at least, the sting of their complaints has been nullified, because this bridge covers both sides of the street. While the premier gives car commuters another bridge to get across, he salves their collective conscience by offering a transit alternative on the same bridge.
Hey, all you eco-freaks! Quit your complaining! You got your freakin' transit! Now shut up. Buses are the Hail Marys that will atone for the sins of all that car traffic.
None of this, however, makes those opponents any more wrong for their opposition. The twinned bridge and the huge investment in road infrastructure that goes with it only proliferates the car culture it is there to serve. The bridge and the Gateway project are the status quo, and then some.
The premier, however, painted it as an eco-initiative, saying the buses will remove 15,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually. But will it affect the number of vehicles on the road?
There are 127,000 vehicles crossing the Port Mann a day now, with predictions of 164,000 by 2017. The same number of cars is predicted to be using both bridges by 2017.
And studies have shown that new freeways soon find their maximum capacity. They encourage motorists to make more trips, not fewer. There will undoubtedly be a period of grace when the new bridge opens and traffic congestion will momentarily lessen.
But I predict that will end within two or three years. It will be business as usual, except with two traffic jams backing up over the Fraser, not one.
Add to that the fact that car ownership per family is increasing, the number of car trips is increasing, the number of cars on the road is increasing and the percentage of single-occupancy trips is increasing, and you have trouble. Also, transit ridership is almost stagnant. And as we grow older -- as we are as a society -- studies show we take less transit and drive more.
But there is also this:
The Gateway project and the twinning of the Port Mann are primarily about moving goods, not people. As Campbell and Falcon kept on reiterating, they want Vancouver to be the gateway to the Pacific, so we can maintain the affluence to which we have become accustomed, and continue to revel in "the freedoms we enjoy." (Cheap, slave-labour goods from China will keep us free!)
Why do we need this massive road infrastructure? Because we need a bigger gate. We must accommodate the huge increase the government wants to see in our ports -- to a factor of five, I believe it is, at least in the increase of container cargo. What's going to carry them here? Freighters, one of the single biggest sources of greenhouse gases in the Lower Mainland.
And what's going to transport those containers on those roads once they are unloaded? Trucks. Lots and lots of them. Enough, I bet, to neutralize the 15,000 tons in greenhouse gases Campbell boasts of saving. That's progress, but of an obsolescent kind.
And 20 years down the road after we've cut the ribbon on the twinned bridge? Triplets!
© The Vancouver Sun 2007