Traffic congestion in New West

Traffic congestion and public transit infrastructure are named among the top issues for most civic election candidates in New Westminster – and it seems we’re not alone. Greater Vancouver is experiencing major growing pains related to suburbun expansion. Cost of living has boosted growth in areas like Pitt Meadows, Coquitlam, Surrey and Abbotsford, but the majority of jobs are still located in Vancouver. The result is gridlock due to the funnel effect of so many people coming into the downtown area through a limited number of access points.

Unsurprisingly, those at the wide end of the funnel want to twin the Port Mann bridge, hoping it will speed their commute into town. We at the narrow end – New Westminster, Burnaby and Vancouver – are more likely to oppose it, fearing it will only bring more non-residential traffic into our communities.

Writes the Vancouver Sun:

In the south-of-the-Fraser communities of Langley, Surrey, Delta and White Rock, where gridlock on the bridge is a huge issue, nearly 75 per cent of candidates agreed or agreed strongly that the bridge should be twinned.

Artist's rendition of a twinned Port Mann Bridge.

Artist’s rendition of a twinned Port Mann Bridge.


In the Tri-Cities area, support was even higher. Eighty-five per cent of candidates agreed.

In the core communities of Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster, where many fear that more lanes will bring more traffic, only 30 per cent either agreed or agreed strongly with the bridge twinning.

New Westminster council candidate Betty McIntosh said she’d like to see the new South Fraser Perimeter Road completed to siphon off some of the traffic that now runs through New Westminster, which, as the geographical centre of the region, has a disproportionate number of vehicles travelling through it
“New Westminster is a compact, well-planned city with a large volume of transit users. We can work, live and play within our city boundaries,” she said.

Lorrie Williams, also running in New Westminster, said the city could “easily become just the crossroad to other places” and it needs well-planned commuter and truck routes and cooperation with other municipalities to share the burden.

As a central access point for the Lower Mainland, New West benefits from proximity to both the city and the suburbs, but as this issue highlights, there is a dark side. Too much traffic is just pass-through traffic, and it impacts local traffic, air quality, quality of life and also our businesses. 

The Sun quoted Williams and McIntosh, but here are some opinions from other local candidates on the traffic situation here in New West and what to do about it (quotes from the Sun’s poll data and candidate websites): 

Mayoral candidates:

  • Wayne Wright (incumbent): “Always a problem in a Geographic centered city like N.W. Biggest issue is North Fraser Perimeter Road and bridges and how they will be brought through the city.The road goes directly though the middle of downtown and our new residential areas and the bridge heads are congested already.We will be working directly with Translink and the Province to address these problems. There will be solutions but there will be large capital costs necessary to do the right thing.”
  • Blair Armitage:  Ipsos Reid poll rates traffic as high priority with New West voters (note: I tried looking for more detail on the Voice website but I was unable to find the info I was looking for. If you’re reading this Voice, SEO is everything. Get your Google juice on!)

Council candidates:

  • Jaimie McEvoy: New Westminster needs more support for cyclists, include more bike routes and bike racks throughout the city ….. We need to ensure that when Patullo Bridge is replaced that city council is a strong advocate for its citizens, ensuring that the new bridge improves traffic, and does not increase traffic on our local streets.”
  • Matthew Laird: “New Westminster is at the cross roads of the Lower Mainland, we have an opportunity to be an example of progressive urban planning, making a walkable, livable city focused on sustainability.”
  • Bob Osterman: “New Westminster has over 350,000 cars driving through our city each day, our roads are clogged and the consequent accidents and car pollution concern every resident. To go from West to East at rush hour can take 30 minutes to travel 2 miles.”
  • Lynda Fletcher-Gordon: The amount of traffic in New Westminster will not decrease. In fact, without the provision of more public rapid transit, it is likely to increase. While we want to have a walkable city, we also need to consider how to keep the traffic moving and avoid gridlock. While I support traffic calming devices generally, the traffic calming devices on the main roads and intersections contribute to the gridlock that often happen – especially at 6th and Royal. They cause congestion as those drivers who want to use an alternative route or merely turn from Royal onto 6th are prevented from doing that.”
  • Terrance Owen: “New West suffers from severe road and rail cross-traffic to and from other municipalities. These road and rail routes fall under federal and provincial jurisdictions. The city needs the cooperation and support of these senior levels of government to provide alternate routes and containment that will alleviate the problems created for New West.”
The Vancouver Sun is leveraging the data gathered in their municipal candidates’ issues survey well here, but this quote from their article again highlights how they missed the mark from a technology standpoint.

To help you on voting day, Nov. 15, you can use the database as a personal ballot, printing off a list of all candidates and then circling those that best reflect your views.

Print it out and circle the candidates you’re voting for? C’mon Sun, you can do better. The data is there, all that is needed is the technical execution to make it more useful. If the Sun doesn’t have the technical resources, they could at least provide the data in an easily remixed format so that others with the knowledge and the desire could create something better suited for the Web.

Readers, if you notice that I’m missing a candidate’s published comments on the issue, leave a note in the comments. If any political candidates wish to expand on their comments, go right ahead!