Chris Bryan is a New Westminster resident and the editor of the New Westminster NewsLeader.
As you may know, I write a weekly column in the New Westminster NewsLeader.
When I started the draft for this week, my goal was to talk specifically about the United Boulevard Extension project, which is the subject of a “town hall-style” meeting on Dec. 7 at the Justice Institute. I’d been hearing from people, in person and online, that a main concern was that the project would lead to more traffic coming to the Royal City.
And then I thought: Why are we always fighting to prevent more traffic from coming to this city?
Why don’t we turn this equation around and start fighting—hard—for less? Did you know that our city has 400,000 vehicles on its roads every day? And our population is only about 60,000. I doubt you’d be able to find any city in this region more inundated in such a tiny space. Although we have adapted, in a way, to this situation, I don’t think we should accept it.
It’s crazy that we have to avoid about a dozen key streets at various times of the day because we know they will be a commuter nightmare. And we shouldn’t have to become rat-runners in our own city, creating our own unique routes to get to friend’s houses, to daycare, to the community centre.
In my column, the first thing I proposed is getting Option 4 for the Pattullo Bridge replacement back on the table. That would make the new bridge link Surrey and Coquitlam—we’d be out of the picture—and possibly remove as many as 80,000 vehicles from our streets a day. (Do you remember that week in January 2009 when the Pattullo was closed?) The option was removed last year, but who knows? There still could be time to make the case that it should return for consideration when the public consultation kicks off, likely in 2011. It’s an opportunity that might not come around again for decades.
If we can’t do that, I still think we need to change everyone’s perception of our role in the region. Our own—as well as that of TransLink, Metro Vancouver, the province and everyone who drives through each day. We’re a growing, compact city. We’re well served by transit. The population of Coquitlam, Burnaby and Surrey has exploded over the last 20 years. And while our role as thoroughfare may have been acceptable when they were sleepy suburbs back in the ’60s, so much has changed in the meantime.
Today, I think, that relationship no longer works.