Ever wonder how we manage the Lions Gate Bridge lane control system? Let us explain.
WHO IS INVOLVED?
Miller Capilano Highway Services, our local maintenance contractor, monitors more than 40 cameras on the bridge and surrounding roads and manages the lane control operations, all from the Transportation Management Centre of British Columbia (TMCBC). Two crew members are also stationed at either side of the bridge between 6 am and 10 pm, helping clear vehicle incidents, stalls and debris from the bridge as safely and efficiently as possible. They also help with traffic support for emergency services when needed.
Now that we’ve got that straight, let’s talk about counterflow timing…
WEEKDAY MORNING OPERATIONS
During the weekday morning commute at 6 am, we provide two lanes southbound on the Lions Gate Bridge for morning commuters. At the same time, the City of Vancouver provides an extra southbound lane on Georgia Street to help with the flow of traffic. With a quiet and less congested downtown, southbound commuters can flow steadily over the bridge and continuously into the city.
At around 9:30 am, the City of Vancouver removes the extra lane on Georgia Street. At the same time, we provide two lanes in the northbound direction on the bridge.
WEEKDAY AFTERNOON/EVENING OPERATIONS
After the 9:30 am switch over, the lane control operations on the bridge becomes dynamic, which means the lane operators choose the direction of the middle lane based on how traffic unfolds.
After 3 pm, we generally have the centre lane open in the northbound direction. At the same time, we need to make sure southbound vehicles waiting to get into Vancouver from the North Shore don’t spill onto Highway 1, causing safety issues. And that’s why we dynamically change the direction of the centre lane throughout the day.
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE FOR EMERGENCY RESPONSE
Here’s the challenge: When two lanes are provided for northbound traffic, the North Shore can easily disperse commuters with two separate major routes and Highway 1. But for the rest of the day, and into the evening, southbound traffic faces a busy downtown Vancouver with an active downtown core – with traffic lights, pedestrians and overall congestion. This slows down traffic through Stanley Park Causeway and onto the bridge, quickly clogging the centre lane throughout the corridor.
If the southbound traffic continues without intervention, the congestion, which begins at Denman Street, will quickly reach the Stanley Park Causeway and clog the centre lane with bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way back through the Causeway, eventually reaching the bridge.
This heavy traffic can be challenging to manage in an emergency. This scenario creates a significant increase in the amount of time it takes to clear the centre lane compared to when traffic is free-flowing.
Emergency responders are a priority; it’s important the centre lane is easily accessible so responders can get across quickly to their destination. If the centre lane is clogged, they are not able to get across in a timely manner. Emergency personnel communicate with operators to coordinate crossing times. By monitoring and ensuring the centre lane doesn’t reach the point of bumper-to-bumper traffic, the centre lane can be cleared quickly for emergency vehicles.
WEEKDAY OVERNIGHT OPERATIONS
During weekdays, the centre lane of the Lions Gate Bridge is closed from 12 am to 6 am so emergency services can easily cross the bridge without having to wait on operators. Due to the lower volumes of traffic, this procedure does not cause delays.
During the weekend, the Lions Gate Bridge lane control operations are managed dynamically throughout the day and evening. Operators change the lanes based on volume in either direction, making sure the centre lane is never too clogged and ready when it matters most.
So, there you have it! The rhyme and reason to the Lions Gate Bridge lane control system. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.