Saturday, May 12, 2012

City to update transportation plan

Current and future traffic concerns in the Brentwood area have factored into the City of Burnaby's recently-expressed intention to consider updating its transportation plan.  According to the following Burnaby Now article, Mayor Derek Corrigan is primarily concerned with increased traffic resulting from the opening of the new Port Mann Bridge.  The construction of the new Willingdon overpass to accommodate the widening of Hwy 1 is close to completion just south of Still Creek.

The following is the full story in the Burnaby Now:

Burnaby revisits city transportation plans

Travelling from Metrotown to the Heights is bound to get more and more difficult with traffic increasing from other suburbs, so the city is revisiting its transportation plan.
Mayor Derek Corrigan announced at his annual state-of-the-city address last month that Burnaby will be updating its transportation plan this year.
"It's going to be a more comprehensive look at where our traffic is going over the next years," he said in a followup interview. "With all of this growth come new and increased traffic problems."
Corrigan is primarily concerned with the additional traffic expected once the new Port Mann Bridge is completed, he said.
"That is going to encourage people to get into their cars and come in, because they're not going to have that Port Mann bottleneck," he explained. "So now they'll be coming in and creating a new bottleneck at Willingdon in Burnaby."
Corrigan said he is also concerned about TransLink moving forward to replace the Pattullo Bridge, and the traffic increase that will bring.
"I'm sure that makes everybody in Burnaby and New Westminster happy to hear that now there'll be another access point with increased vehicle traffic coming in from north Surrey," he said.
The city will be looking at what it can do to make travelling throughout the city less difficult for residents, with so many people commuting through the city and into Vancouver.
The primary area of concern is the Brentwood neighbourhood, Corrigan added.
"The impact is going to be direct on them," he said. "As traffic stops on Willingdon, because it's bottled up as far as access to First Avenue or Grandview is concerned, people will be looking for ways to get off of the highway, and they'll be looking at North Burnaby, particularly through the Brentwood area but even as far as the Heights."
There will be also be traffic impacts on Metrotown, with more cars going through that area, he said.
While residential access for new developments is accommodated through the Brentwood community plan, Corrigan said, the issue is whether or not the streets are going to be too crowded with cars for them to get access.
"And you can't build your way out of that," he added. "It's going to be a real challenge for us to find ways to cope with traffic that is forced upon us."
The city will be conducting a similar process to that completed in the Heights last year, with public consultations and input from traffic planners and engineers, according to Corrigan. The city hopes to begin working on the plan this year.
"We're not going to unravel this Gordian Knot in a few months," he said.
"We'll have to make some hard decisions about how much traffic we're going to allow into our communities," Corrigan added. "Sometimes it's wiser to constrict roads into areas, and that may also be a big part of transportation planning."
Heights resident Ivan Hnatiuk participated in the public consultations regarding the Heights plan and has made presentations to council regarding traffic concerns in the area.
He hopes that the city conducts public consultations before making recommendations in the citywide plan, he said.
He also hopes residents' safety takes priority overall, he added.
"Fundamentally, I think what would be nice to see in the transportation plan is that safety and livability should be paramount over convenience," he said. "And I think that was one of the key failing points in what was done in the Heights scenario."
The lessons of what worked and what didn't in the Heights transportation planning process can be applied to all of Burnaby, Hnatiuk added.
"Ours is not a unique situation," he said. "I think all residents face the same issue with rat-running, cutting through the neighbourhood."
Peter Cech, another Heights resident who advocated for the safety of area residents during the consultations and to council, is glad the city is revisiting the traffic issues in the city.
"I'm thrilled that the mayor and council listened to the concerns of the residents of the Heights," he said. "But the process that resulted was flawed, in my view, because it wasn't comprehensive."
He hopes a new citywide plan would make sure that traffic control interventions are more interconnected, so that traffic is kept on the main arterial roads, he said.
He intends to take part in any of the future consultations in the Heights area, he said, as he thinks the safety measures taken with the Heights plan were not effective enough.
But he is happy to see the city looking to address the problems on a larger scale, Cech added.
"I think it's pretty remarkable that the city went to the length of even revisiting the traffic concerns in our community, and I think that speaks really well to how inclusive this mayor and council is of people's opinions," he added.
Burnaby is on the right track when it comes to the city's design and traffic planning, according to Gordon Price, urban planner and director of the city program at Simon Fraser University.
"It just needs some tweaking," he said of the city's current transportation system.
"The best transportation plan is a land-use plan," he added, saying that Burnaby's focus on building denser, mixed-use city centres is a good start.
As Burnaby is between Vancouver and the rest of the Lower Mainland, there is not much that can be done to prevent traffic from travelling through the city, Price said.
But the city can make sure residents have a range of travel options aside from owning cars, he explained.
"Really there's only one way to do it. You have to give people some other choices," he said. "They should be able to take transit, and that transit shouldn't be stuck in the traffic."
City planning should include travel options such as cars, a frequent transit network, taxis and car sharing, cycling and walking, he said.

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