I read an editorial in The Optimist recently that suggested moving the tourist office from the north side of the George Massey Tunnel in order to add another lane, the goal being to increase the rate of traffic flow through the tunnel.
I have observed that often traffic entering the tunnel proceeds at 20 km/hr, while traffic exiting the tunnel moves at 80 km/hr. Adding another lane exiting the tunnel isn't likely to change this, since the problem is the merging lanes on the entrance side the tunnel.
What might improve the situation is to change the way merging is done at the entrance to the tunnel. The crux of the issue is that at higher speeds, merging works fairly well, but as traffic slows down (it inevitably does) and the space between cars is reduced, merging becomes much more tedious, and this is what causes the congestion.
The first thing I would recommend is looking at traffic studies already performed by the engineers to see what proposals they have come up with (if they have not studied the problem, ask them why not). Next, consider adding merge-lane traffic lights like they have in California, to prompt drivers when it's their turn to enter the freeway. Organizing drivers merging to enter the tunnel will go a long way to making use of the lanes that already exist.
Also, some driver training may be in order. I've casually surveyed a few people I know in Delta, and none of them could tell me at what times the lanes in the George Massey Tunnel switch directions (you can Google this information, if you think it might be a useful thing to know).
That and almost every time I go through the tunnel, I see someone crossing the solid white line, oblivious to the fact that most accidents in the tunnel start with changing lanes when you're not supposed to. Evidently a lot of drivers don't know what they ought to be doing, let alone how to do it better.
Merging to enter the George Massey Tunnel works best when all the drivers are playing by the same rules, and maintaining sufficient speed. All it takes is one tourist to introduce a bit of hesitation, and soon everybody's speed drops, the space between cars disappears, and gridlock sets in.
If anything, the tourist office should be move to the entrance side of the tunnel, where traffic is slower anyway, and lost tourists can easily turn off at the appropriate moment, getting them out of the way of people who know where they're going.
As a side note (or perhaps an entirely separate editorial), I have timed my travel from Ladner to the Bridgeport SkyTrain Station by both car and bus. The bus beats the car by four minutes (believe it or not). Timing was from my front door to standing on the platform, ready to catch the SkyTrain. While the cars zip past me standing on the side of the highway, and the bus stopped at the Ladner exchange, they lose time merging into the George Massey Tunnel, and parking at Bridgeport... meanwhile the "loser-cruiser" zooms past them in the HOV lane.
If you park your car in the undeveloped "free" lot at Bridgeport, then you're only paying 50 cents more to arrive four minutes later (in style, of course), based on my insurance and operating costs, and peak-time fares. Once they pave and paint that lot and charge money for parking, the cost of arriving four minutes later will be more than double the cost of taking the bus. If you're keen to experience this right away, you now have the option of parking in the parkade across from the River Rock casino.
Isn't that interesting? Driving is such an impressive experience, rushing towards your destination with a wiggle of your big toe, that most folks wouldn't guess that they're actually going slower than the bus. Busily navigating the cloverleaf, the tunnel, and the parking lot, they don't notice the lowly bus quietly getting ahead of them.
Now can you imagine if the HOV lane didn't have to merge with single-occupant vehicles to get into the tunnel? Why, the time savings would go into the double digits. That would get Ladnerites out of their cars! But wait...
Here's another observation for you: I walked five minutes towards home from the Ladner Exchange, and took note of where I was. Got home, found the spot on a map, and traced a circle around the Ladner Exchange representing five minutes walking distance from it. How many homes were inside that circle? How many rental units? Not very many. I'm guessing at best 300 of Ladner's 20,000 residents have the option of living within walking distance to the town's bus exchange.
What was within five minutes walk from the Ladner Exchange? A hospital, the leisure centre, a disused horse track, and a McDonald's. I asked around to find out the history, why it was located there. Answer I got was they wanted to have it in a sensible place at Trenant Park Mall, but land owners complained about the number of parking spaces they would have to give up -- they figured 70 passenger buses arriving at their mall 25-30 times a day wouldn't replace the customers they lost if fewer people could park there. Perhaps they also reasoned that bus riders don't spend money like their car-driving counterparts.
They obviously didn't realize that bus riders save 50 cents per trip. Each way. That's a dollar a day to spend at the mall.
And they arrive four minutes sooner.
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