LETTER: A Third North Shore crossing won't happen

Dear editor:

I've seen suggestions that we should build a third crossing or otherwise expand car lanes across Burrard Inlet, and simply put, it's never happening. The City of Vancouver will never approve additional car capacity entering city limits, and the province's traffic planners, unlike those who want more lanes, understand basic concepts in civil engineering, like induced demand.

Regarding the former, keep in mind the fate of freeway expansion plans within the City of Vancouver in the '60s - they were rejected so forcefully that the city government was nearly entirely replaced, and its urban planning since then has centred around shifting travel away from cars. They have spent 40 years rejecting new bridges, building protected bike lanes, and improving walkability at the expense of car capacity. Even with massive population increases south of the Fraser, the last time they added any new car lanes into Vancouver was 44 years ago, with the Arthur Laing Bridge. Considering that, it's foolish to think they'll accept any more lanes from the north, just to pander to several tens of thousands of car commuters.

As for induced demand, a great example of this phenomenon is any city with urban freeways - say, Seattle and Los Angeles. How this works is that, when capacity is increased, a lot of latent demand can be fulfilled; more space on the roads means more cars can get through, and people will adjust their driving habits to utilize that capacity. As the main limiting factor on car use is congestion (which is a strong incentive against unnecessary car trips), where there's latent demand (which is pretty much anywhere with existing congestion), road use will increase until congestion becomes more or less as bad as it was before extra lanes were added. More lanes across the Inlet would help for a few years - but within a decade, traffic would be even worse than before, with Vancouver's roads being utterly overwhelmed by massively increased numbers of North Shore drivers, facilitated by the added inbound capacity. "If you build it, they will come" applies to both transit and roads.

The City of Vancouver and the BC government aren't irresponsible enough to waste billions of dollars on more car lanes that will just increase road utilization and GHG emissions. The only relief we're ever going to get for congestion will be transit, so we should probably be supporting more of that, not less.

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Matt Rowan
West Vancouver

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