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Traffic is climbing on some Metro Vancouver bridges. Others, not so much

Click to play video: 'Bridge traffic patterns shifting in Metro Vancouver, data shows'
Bridge traffic patterns shifting in Metro Vancouver, data shows
Global News has obtained data from the Ministry of Transportation, giving us a better understanding of Metro Vancouver bridge traffic. As John Hua reports, downtown Vancouver is not the central work hub it once was, and that's changing the movement of traffic – Jan 31, 2024

New data from the B.C. government shows some of the Lower Mainland’s bridges have seen a dramatic increase in traffic.

The figures from the Ministry of Transportation show a major spike on bridges crossing the Fraser River compared to five years ago, while traffic to the North Shore has grown much more slowly.

Click to play video: 'Survey shows an increase in Surrey transportation options needed'
Survey shows an increase in Surrey transportation options needed

Between 2019 and 2023, average daily trips on the Port Mann Bridge increased by about 12 per cent, while between 2020 and 2023 (data was incomplete for 2019), average daily trips on the Alex Fraser Bridge grew by more than 26 per cent.

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Meanwhile, the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge saw traffic volume sit virtually unchanged between 2019 and 2023a and the Lions Gate Bridge saw a decrease in average daily trips of about 11.6 per cent between 2019 and 2022 (data for 2023 was incomplete.)

Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program believes there are several key factors underpinning the changes.

“One in three transportation jobs and one in four manufacturing jobs, those people live south of the Fraser,” Yan said.

“These are folks who are in jobs that they have to show up for their jobs, as opposed to, say, work from home.”

Meanwhile, he said, downtown Vancouver’s importance as a nucleus for work and business in the city has receded.

Click to play video: 'Traffic Tips: Importance of emergency preparedness on the road'
Traffic Tips: Importance of emergency preparedness on the road

Growth across the region has seen the growth of numerous economic centres around Metro Vancouver, Yan said.

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“This really points to the challenge of ensuring we have a transportation network, as opposed to a spoke-hub in and out of downtown,” Yan said.

Growth in traffic on the Alex Fraser does reflect the addition of an additional counterflow “zipper” lane, installed in 2019.

However, there are times where the Port Mann Bridge’s volume rivals the Ironworkers’ and Lions Gate’s traffic combined.

“I don’t think the growth in places like Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford is a surprise to anyone,” Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said.

With more people moving south of the Fraser in search of affordable housing, Fleming said the province is focused on finding ways to get more commuters out of their cars.

“It highlights the importance of shifting people to transit. You can’t entirely build your way out of this, nobody believes this,” he said.

Fleming pointed to the in-progress Surrey-Langley SkyTrain station, along with plans to build a trio of Bus Rapid Transit lines in the future. Those lines, however, remain unfunded.

Click to play video: 'New RapidBus service launches in Surrey and Delta'
New RapidBus service launches in Surrey and Delta

The minister also touted work to widen Highway 1 in the Fraser Valley, along with the Pattullo Bride and Massey Tunnel replacement projects as key priorities. The Pattullo is due for completion later this year, but the Massey project has yet to break ground.

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Yan, meanwhile, said that while transit will be key to the solution, how we structure our city amid the current development boom will matter just as much.

“We not only need to have housing development,” he said, but we also (need to) have employment development that is connected by transit, and a means of transportation that doesn’t require people to commute to work.”

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