(This column was published in the North Shore News on July 17, 2002)

 

Bad road-planning is on an endless journey

 By Leo Knight

Since the new traffic control route has been in effect along Dollarton Highway, I admit I've been more than a little amazed at what passes for traffic planning in North Vancouver District.

 

No, really. For anyone who has driven in either direction along the new Dollarton Highway and has been stopped, for no explicable reason, at the traffic light at the newly-dubbed Riverside West Road, you will know what I'm talking about.

 

In the space of a hundred feet there are now two traffic lights. Which, I might add, seem to operate in diametric opposition to each other.

 

What, are municipal planners no longer required to use a pencil and paper when they come up with an idea? Please, no one can tell me that there is a good reason for having two intersections within a hundred feet, both controlled by traffic lights. Especially when there has just been a major redesign and upgrade of the road system.

 

On Saturday, I was driving west on the new Dollarton heading to my office. I had a green light at Amherst and Old Dollarton, but couldn't go anywhere. Not because there was an accident or a traffic jam, but simply because there was a red light at Riverside West and there were five or six cars waiting for that light to turn green and had used all the allotted road space. Five or six cars only. This is really ludicrous.

 

There are probably some politics involved in needing to put a light there or some other excuse masquerading as thoughtful reason, but in reality I cannot fathom why the district has done what it has in this case.

 

That is not to say the new Dollarton is a bad thing. It is long overdue. But the amalgamation of the old highway with the new and the use of the new traffic lights in so short a linear distance is just plain dumb. Especially when we cannot seem to co-ordinate the control sequences.

 

Traffic in the Lower Mainland has been growing worse year by year. The lack of foresight in the urban planning of the 1960s and 1970s coupled with the small-mindedness of local politicians has served to ensure what used to be a 20-minute trip can now take nearly an hour.

 

It no longer matters the time of day. The highway, such as it is, at one p.m. on a Sunday is just as busy as at three on a Thursday. Equally, 10 or 11 at night can be as slow and clogged as eight in the morning.

 

The volume of traffic has been increasing, but the roads carrying the increase still number the same as it did 20 years ago. There is still no major arterial into the downtown core and there isn't likely going to be in my lifetime.

 

Light-rail transit is still a pipe dream and any thoughts of a real subway system to efficiently move commuters is even further away. So much for Vancouver being a "world-class city."

 

And the situation is made much worse by the lack of proper traffic enforcement by our policing representatives. Photo radar was foisted upon an unsuspecting populace for no other reason than to ensure a steady stream of money was stolen from users of the road system while systematically decimating the traffic enforcement sections of the various departments and detachments.

 

Traffic sections have been reduced by half in most cases and more in others.

 

What remains is a small complement of traffic enforcement officers who, in order to meet the "reasonable expectation of performance" - of course there are no quotas - wind up doing little else than running radar traps. The reason is simple: it is the fastest way to generate numbers.

 

The result is there is little or no enforcement on things like illegal left turns, red-light running, rolling stop sign infractions and a host of other moving violations. What are supposed to be, by design and by statute, passing lanes, are totally ignored by those who just don't seem to realize that if they are being passed on the right, no matter what speed they are travelling at, they are in the wrong lane.

 

In simple terms, traffic is getting heavier by the day. Drivers are ignoring the laws designed to enable efficient flow.

 

The police have fewer members available for enforcement, and those who work in traffic enforcement do little else besides radar speed enforcement.

 

If all that is not bad enough, we get the sort of planning that gives us two traffic lights within 100 feet on the new, improved Dollarton Highway. And the amazing thing is we, the taxpayer, actually pay for someone to come up with this nonsense.

 

So, as you sit in bumper- to-bumper traffic, remember, it's not an accident, someone planned it.

 

Brilliant.

 

-30-

 

 

 

 

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