Sunday, January 18, 2009

Big City, Small Town Mentality

Having lived in the Lower Mainland of BC for almost 10 years, I have consistently seen an overall feeling of living in a big city but with small town mentality. For a place with 2.5 million people and growing fast, this is a serious concern but one that shows almost no signs of changing.

Oh, we're a big city alright. We're hosting the 2010 Olympics! But look a little closer and things look a lot different. Malls in the surrounding cities close at 6pm before Wednesdays. 24 hour stores are nearly unheard of. Buses come every 30 minutes or even 60 minutes. The list goes on.

Worst of all, the road and transit system are far behind where they should be, and even upgrades being done now are barely meeting the current need. Busy two-lane roads are being upgraded - to four lanes. Why not prepare for future growth and go to six? Build a new bridge to accommodate increasing traffic from outlying areas to the city? There is so much opposition that it hinders even the slow moving government process to get such a project underway.

And it is bridges that have become a serious problem as of this morning. Part of the Pattullo Bridge caught fire and has done enough damage to have it shut down for up to a month, as read in this CBC article.

The Pattullo Bridge, which crosses the Fraser River to connect New Westminster and Surrey, B.C., could be closed for as long as a month after a fire damaged the bridge's support structure Sunday.

A spokesman for TransLink, the organization responsible for public transportation, roads and bridges in the Lower Mainland, said the fire damaged a 20-metre section of wooden trestles at the south end of the bridge early Sunday morning.

Wood? Don't be surprised. This bridge was completed in 1937, over 70 years ago! It's narrow, dangerous, and everyone knows it needs to be replaced. The last paragraph in the article is very telling:

TransLink has plans to eventually tear down the 71-year-old bridge and replace it with a six-lane, $800-million structure, but B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said Sunday a new bridge is still many years away.

Too little, too late!

The Pattullo Bridge

This is the bridge I drive across every morning on the way to work. Waiting in backed up traffic to cross its two lanes going north, dodging potholes, and staying clear of the big trucks who are forced to use up both lanes are some of the adventures that await me each day.

Now I can look forward to finding a new route to work, whether that be via another bridge, or by taking transit. Surely both options are bad, as the Pattullo Bridge is crossed by 80,000 commuters every day and that volume will have to be directed elsewhere.

It's going to be a mess out there.

Update: Monday Morning

I woke up extra early, 5am, left the house at 5:30am and got to work by 6:30am. Considering how early I left and it taking an hour, traffic was a lot heavier than usual. I plan to work earlier hours for the next few weeks and see how it goes. Based on today's trip, it's still much better than taking transit.

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4 Smart Remarks:

Anonymous Mr. H said...

It really is a joke there! If you travel around the USA and even here in Ontario, you see big beautiful road ways that can handle much larger traffic loads than are currently using them...what are they thinking in BC?

The public was complaining 10 years ago when we first moved there and not much has been done since then!

The Olympics will be a disaster in my opinion as the visitors will not realize that they need to leave so much earlier and they are going to miss some of the events for which they have paid big buck to see. We will look bad in the eyes of the world.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Trooper said...

I truly wonder whether the full scope of potential problems has yet been considered in regards to the Olympics. There have been road upgrades which will help, but the bottlenecks remain. Specifically, the bridges. BC has has 9 years to prepare for this and nothing has been done towards building new bridges. Some expansion has been done, but it cannot handle even the current rush hour.

Imagine if this would happen during the Olympics, in an already overloaded state, or some other major problem with a bridge. There are almost daily problems already with stalls and accidents, let alone complete shutdowns.

And don't forget about the protesters who may want to use a bridge as their personal jungle gym! That'll shut down a bridge even without an actual problem.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Auntie Edna said...

Sorry to hear this is your route to work. Unfortunately the mentality of our government is to close roads and evolve as much as possible to transit which is totally backwards. The Gov't has given millions of $'s to translink and now can't find the funds to fix our road systems which is something they don't want to do. Until we get someone with their head on straight, we won't see road improvements in the Vancouver area. This communist thinking is to 'force' people to use transit which just simply is impossible!

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Susanna said...

Wow, I can't believe they said that a replacement for the Pattullo Bridge would be many years away, especially since the bridge is already ancient!

6:00 PM  

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