Smarter Ways to Minimize Ioco Rd. Traffic Woes as the North Shore Grows
Traffic on Ioco Road today is busy and heading toward unbearable. For more than a century, Ioco Road has been designated as one of Port Moody’s “major roadways” and has been in constant use. The sunny, scenic route runs along Port Moody’s so-called “gold coast,” home to many of the City’s most affluent residents, and it provides the shortest and most direct possible route between PoMo’s downtown and communities to the west, such as Belcarra, southern Anmore, and the old Ioco Townsite that is now being considered for re-development.
While Ioco Road may experience a few beach-day slowdowns each summer, its current level of daily traffic congestion has been measured and found to be moderate compared to more troublesome choke points along the inlet’s south-side Murray-St. John corridor. (See Port Moody’s 30-year Master Transportation Plan , and the map below.)
Even so, those of us who live along the Ioco Rd. corridor know that this winding, often pinched, two-lane road, with commuters careening at excessive speeds, can sometimes be more of a hassle to drive and more dangerous for pedestrians than routes known for heavier traffic, thanks to Ioco Road’s general shortage of safe turn lanes, a surplus of blind driveway entrances, the often dangerous presence of bicyclers navigating its narrow shoulders, and the City’s reluctance to install traffic-calming stop signs or streetlights at key crossings.
Traffic threat comes from unrestricted growth in Anmore & Ioco Lands. While some local residents might consider these shortcomings tolerable at present, the picture will worsen considerably (1) if the number of cars commuting from Anmore continues to increase and (2) if Port Moody’s city council elects to green-light the Ioco Lands site at the end of Ioco Road for anything more than sparse, lowest-density development (i.e., a limited number of single-family homes). These two pending factors are the root of any future traffic problem on Ioco Road.
The City’s logic looks circular – contain the traffic problem on Ioco Road by favoring a development scheme that would increase traffic on Ioco Road. To alleviate Ioco Road traffic arising from further development, the council is reaching first for the poorly thought-through option that it’s had on a back shelf for decades: simply divert some of the traffic growth to a busy roadway along the land strip through Bert Flinn that was set aside for this purpose twenty years ago and that would basically ruin this green belt as a tranquil, ecologically integrated nature park.
In periodic discussions with the Brilliant Circle Group that apparently go back to late 2014, the Council has let the developer understand that the City might be willing to consider raising the permitted density zoning of the Ioco Lands parcel, as BCG desires, but only if it first commits a staggering sum – estimated variously at between $25 and $50 million – out of its own pocket to extend David Avenue through the heart of Bert Flinn Park and construct a costly bridge over Mossom Creek Ravine.
The vision – many would say delusion – driving this scheme is the supposition that such a Park road would siphon so much traffic away from Ioco Road that the popular coastline road could handle a sudden influx of entirely new traffic from the Ioco Lands development without actually getting any worse than it is today. Given the enduring appeals of Ioco Road to commuters, there is good reason to suppose the contrary. As noted earlier, Ioco Road is still likely to be the route of choice for a growing number of commuters along PoMo’s booming north shore. According to the developer’s own traffic study, 70% of Anmore commuters who currently choose Ioco Road would continue to do so, even if the envisioned Bert Flinn Park road gave them an alternative. (See BCG Traffic Study chart.)
For what it’s worth, the developer’s study does promise a hefty 90% reduction in traffic on Ioco Road among current Belcarra commuters, who purportedly would all prefer to take the Park road. Yet Ioco Road residents would be mistaken to expect any decrease in their overall traffic congestion as a consequence of this: BCG’s express intention is to completely replace any reduced traffic on Ioco Road with a huge influx of entirely new traffic from its own pending Ioco Lands residential/business development located at the end of Ioco Road.
Thus, if Port Moody’s City Council approves an Ioco Lands plan along the lines described by BCG’s James Cheng at several public presentations last year, then, in addition to the continued herd of existing Anmore commuters, Ioco Road residents can now expect to deal with an entirely new crowd of drivers racing to and from the relatively dense residential community on the Ioco Lands, replete with condo clusters, retail stores, services, and tourist attractions that the developer has envisioned within its new “destination hub for the whole area.”
The citizens of Port Moody have smarter options to choose from, however, so any move to fill up Bert Flinn Park with engine noise and car exhaust should be considered, if at all, as an option of last resort. We see many better alternatives. Here are five of them, just for starters.
Five Steps That Could Allow Ioco Lands Development, Protect the Park, and Mitigate Traffic Impact on Ioco Road
Step 1 – Let the developer save itself the expense of building a Park roadway & bridge. The Council has required BCG to finance a roadway/bridge project that could cost as much as $50 million – an expense that might actually exceed what the developer reportedly paid ($34 million) to acquire the Ioco Lands in the first place. In turn BCG will seek to recover this huge Park construction expense through higher-density development on the Ioco Lands, and this higher density will mean more people, more cars, and more traffic congestion along Ioco Road – a vicious cycle. Instead, let’s tell the developer it can spare this Park construction expense and put some of the savings to fattening its bottom-line profit. But in return, we would insist that the out-of-town developer must take the next four steps…
Step 2 – Respect the existing, lowest-density zoning of Ioco Lands in Anmore and Port Moody. The Council should protect the quality of life on the north shore by strongly resisting the developer’s pitch to re-zone its new property for denser development than is currently allowed. Because the developer’s costs would be significantly lower, the Brilliant Circle Group could achieve a handsome level of profit on its building project while working within the current zoning constraints, which serve to safeguard local residents from excessive increases in traffic congestion. The Council should stick to local zoning rules and not make special exceptions for a developer that inevitably aims to maximize its own profit by over-building and then get out of town, leaving Ioco Road and the rest of our once-exquisite north shore to deal with the unhappy consequences.
Step 3 – Ask Anmore to step up and create a new connector road. The Ioco Lands are situated mostly in the village of Anmore, and the growing commuter congestion along Ioco Road is chiefly a problem of Anmore’s accelerating development. So ask the developer to go work directly with Anmore. BCG should offer to fund the building of a more sensible, less costly connector-road solution in Anmore that can give the village’s rising tide of commuters an expedited route into downtown Port Moody without requiring PoMo to sacrifice the integrity of its largest city park and only nature reserve. Anmore’s citizens love and utilize Bert Flinn Park every day, and now Anmore’s leaders should step up to the plate with a responsible traffic solution of their own. For example, building a relatively short connector between Sunnyside Road and Strong Road (see map below) could divert Anmore’s west-to-East traffic and alleviate some of the growing traffic pressure along Ioco Road, provided that BCG is willing to provide incentives that motivate cooperation among the residents there. Anmore leaders have sought to shut down such suggestions before as non-starters, of course, but if the village’s impending traffic growth has now reached the point where adding a new route to west Anmore becomes imperative, then it behooves Anmore to revisit its stance and stop expecting Port Moody to bear all the burden on its own.
Step 4 – Modernize public transit on Ioco Road. Require the developer to mitigate the new traffic surge from its Ioco Lands by subsidizing a major upgrade of Port Moody’s and Anmore’s public transit options on the north shore. Replace the throng of commuter cars along Ioco Road with a handful of quiet, electric buses doing frequent runs with plenty of stops between the Ioco Lands and Port Moody’s downtown/Translink stations.
Step 5 – Improve Ioco Road. Require the Ioco Lands developer to fund major improvements to Ioco Road. We would need a more formal and expert analysis of improvement options before proceeding, but here are some initial ideas to consider. To reduce congestion, the City could add safe turn lanes in the handful of places where the roadway could accommodate them. To improve pedestrian safety and calm traffic, the City could look into extending sidewalks, adding stop signs or lights at critical crossing points, introducing blind-lane entry mirrors, and re-routing non-local cyclist traffic to an enhanced bike lane along Alderside Road. Improvements along such lines could be a big help to Ioco Road residents… and they would cost the developer far less to build than the proposed roadway and bridge through Bert Flinn Park.
City Council, take the high road to sustainable development on Port Moody’s North Shore!
We believe that, taken together, the five steps proposed above would constitute a more realistic and sustainable approach to traffic growth and development on the North Shore. A new survey suggests that many Ioco Road corridor residents may feel similarly. And this is just a start: the SaveBertFlinnPark team has begun collaborating with other local community organizations to brainstorm and sound out additional ideas for sustainable development that protect and improve the quality of life on Port Moody’s spectacular north shore.
We encourage the City Council of Port Moody to carefully consider these alternative approaches instead of rushing to green-light overly ambitious development schemes that renege on the City’s pledge to protect properly the North Shore’s green space. Proper protection requires much more than a handful of wildlife underpasses along a noisy, hectic traffic corridor. Public support for saving Bert Flinn Park is strong, and voters will long remember which road the Council has chosen to take here.