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LaPointe promises counterflow lanes to ease rush hours

NPA also open to more separated bike lanes
NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe promised Tuesday to install counterflow lanes in Vancouver, support an “affordable” subway, lobby for more buses and possibly add more separated bike lanes with the goal of reducing traffic congestion. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Building an “affordable” subway along the Broadway corridor, creating counterflow lanes on the city’s major arterial routes and possibly adding more separated bike lanes are the key planks of the NPA’s plan to reduce traffic congestion.

NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe announced the plan Tuesday in a park outside the Main Street SkyTrain station, where he also committed to lobbying TransLink for more 99 B-Line buses along Broadway so riders wouldn’t be passed up in rush hours.

“I teach [journalism] out at UBC and some of my students arrive late,” said LaPointe, an adjunct professor at the university’s journalism school. “They arrive late not because I think I’m a bad teacher or they think I’m a bad teacher, but because they can’t get to school on time.”

LaPointe didn’t provide a dollar figure on the cost of an “affordable” subway but said he promised to minimize the impact on Vancouver taxpayers. The mayors’ council on regional transportation approved a $7.5 billion plan in June that calls for a $1.9 billion subway line along the Broadway corridor.

The plan, which has been criticized by Transportation Minister Todd Stone, relies heavily on investments from senior levels of government and funding mechanisms such as reallocating $250 million per year of the provincial government’s carbon tax.

LaPointe criticized Mayor Gregor Robertson for wanting to use the carbon tax and accused the mayor of having a poor relationship with senior levels of government. He said this is why Vancouver hasn’t secured funding for a subway.

“The financial commitment from senior governments isn’t going to come as long as Gregor Robertson is the mayor,” LaPointe said. “He’s alienated other levels of government by basically kicking them around on other issues.”

Robertson told reporters in September that he has met with senior levels of government but has not received commitments to fund a subway. LaPointe said he wants to see the ledgers of those meetings.

“When you’re the mayor and you cannot cite the conversations that you’ve had, then you don’t have anything,” he said. “He’s asking us to accept an empty pledge that he’s a champion for. Well, I’m a champion for it, too, but I’m actually going to have the conversations.”

An NPA government, he said, would launch a study to find the busiest arterial routes in the city and then implement counterflow lanes for rush hours in and out of the city, as well as around Vancouver. He wouldn't speculate on the location of those routes. The city's communications department said the Oak, Lions Gate (at Georgia), Knight Street and Burrard bridges had the highest traffic counts in 2013. East First at the TransCanada Highway, and Marine and Boundary were other hot spots.

LaPointe cautioned that counterflow lanes should not be viewed as the NPA wanting to create a freeway inside the city’s boundaries. Rather, he said, the move to open up another lane during rush hours would ease congestion.

“Gregor Robertson has jacked up parking rates, he’s taken away car lanes and he’s shown no respect for drivers, at all,” LaPointe said. “He doesn’t get the fact that sometimes – sometimes – a car is the only option that works.”

That said, LaPointe said an NPA government would maintain the existing bike network and consider expanding both painted bike lanes and the separated lanes that run largely through downtown and out to Point Grey Road.

Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs said he was glad to hear LaPointe confirm that he supports a subway along the Broadway corridor. But, Meggs said, the NPA leader’s promise to install counterflow lanes in Vancouver has not been a demand he’s heard from the public or business owners.

“Obviously the long-term approach to congestion has to be encouraging the new trips we want to generate to be by transit, walking or cycling,” said Meggs, noting once the “construction frenzy” eases downtown that congestion “should get better on its own.”

Meggs said Vision’s lobbying of TransLink has translated to more buses on routes along 49th, 25th and 4th avenues. But, he said, it was time for “the next step up – and that step is the Broadway subway.”

When told that LaPointe accused the mayor of alienating senior levels of government, Meggs said Robertson endorsed a regional transit plan that was approved by all mayors except Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan.

Meggs also pointed to what he described as a “successful partnership” with the provincial government to secure funding for shelters and housing in Vancouver.

“What Mr. LaPointe misses, is the job [of mayor] is to speak up for Vancouver and to get the arrangements that are suitable for Vancouver, not just to do whatever other levels of government tell you,” he said.