While I realize there are likely hundreds of thousands of commuters who’ve been negatively affected by the closure of Metro Vancouver’s Pattullo bridge, I’m not one of them. That’s because I’m a regular transit user who lives north of the Fraser River and so far, my life remains quite unaffected.
I did watch the news this evening expecting to see parking lots on all major highways in Metro Vancouver. Rather, I saw reporter after reporter standing in front of our highways at 6 pm as the traffic whizzed behind them. So what happened to all the traffic gridlock they predicted yesterday? Where did all those 80,000 commuters who regularly use the bridge disappear to?
Let me first declare that I live in a neighbourhood that for decades has been negatively impacted by the Pattullo Bridge. For many New Westminster residents, the Pattullo simply represents thousands of commuters clogging up our neighbourhood streets as they make their way to downtown Vancouver. I know it may not be popular to say this now, but there are likely some New Westminster residents who are quietly cheering the fact the bridge is closed.
Overnight, traffic gridlock on our local streets has all but disappeared. It’s quite eery actually. A trip to the local pool for swimming lessons that might have taken 15 minutes by car, now only takes two. Simply amazing.
So what if TransLink officials decided not to rebuild the bridge between New Westminster and Surrey? Would that be such a bad proposition? A decision not to rebuild would free up hundreds of millions of dollars that could be allocated toward public transit. New Westminster streets would find themselves free of commuter chaos. While more people would be forced to choose more environmentally friendly transportation options.
Is it likely the Pattullo will be dismantled after it’s reached it’s expiry date? Not a chance. However, if the last 24 hours is any example, it likely wouldn’t take people long to adapt to new transportation patterns.
If rebuilding the bridge is essential to keeping goods movement flowing, then why aren’t we at least looking at some creative options for the new Pattullo Bridge?
How about considering whether the new bridge should only be available to commercial, transit, bicycle and HOV vehicles? If you decide to head downtown in your single-occupant SUV, you’ll have to travel across town to one of the other commuter bridges. Otherwise, you can hop aboard the electric powered Skytrain service for your daily commute.
Obviously tolling is another option that should be considered. However, even under this scenario, should single occupant vehicles pay the same as those who carpool? I could easily argue that those who choose to drive alone to work should expect to pay a premium for that luxury.
While it’s not popular to say this while tens of thousand of my fellow citizens are struggling with getting around Metro Vancouver, I for one do not mind the bridge being closed. Sounds selfish, I know, but I could get used to a few more of these "car free days" in our neighbourhood.
If you’ve been impacted by the closure (or not) we’d like to hear your story.