Ask Pat: Tipperary U-turns

Chad asks—

I’m a Brow of the Hill resident who walks home from the Skytrain at Columbia St up 4th St every day. I’m wondering about the deal with Royal Ave and 4th St. Every day I see dozens of cars getting around the no right turn restriction on to Royal Ave by driving into the Tipperary Park parking lot and doing a u-turn. (Where I frequently feel I’m at risk of being run over). I’m especially concerned about this as the days get warmer and longer and more people will be making use of that great park, while those using New West as their highway between home and work zip around in the parking lot to try to bypass part of the Royal Ave traffic parade. I can see that there is a no u-turn sign in the parking lot but no one’s paying attention to it – makes me wonder why they even bother obeying the no right turn sign…anyway, would love to see this area made safer for pedestrians and park goers alike, and would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this!

It has taken me more than a month to answer this question, mostly because I don’t have an answer.

It isn’t only the “no right turn from 4th to Royal” folks who do this. It is also the “no left turn from 3rd to Royal” who turn right instead, go the block and pull a u-turn. Mix these with the people who drive through the City Hall parking lot and access 4th from there instead of waiting a light cycle on 6th

It is a mess. We have (according to some counts, although the source of this oft-cited number is somewhat obscured by urban legend) 400,000 vehicles a day passing through New Westminster, and for an hour or two a day, the legal accesses to the Pattullo Bridge are constricted, and those through-commuters do whatever they can to take a few minutes off their commutes. Except pay a toll on the Port Mann, of course.

It has been measured, this increase in 20,000 vehicles a day crossing the Pattullo (about 30%) since the tolls were applied at the Port Mann. There is a coincident 20,000-vehicle drop in daily crossings of the Port Mann. This is a huge part of the reason why this City has been working so hard to assure that any replacement for the Pattullo Bridge will result in a tolled crossing – to level that playing field. We are also lobbying to assure the bridge is not higher-capacity, as induced demand will assuredly result in congestion on the feeder routes increasing as capacity does. Finally, we worked to encourage people to vote YES for the funding of the Mayor’s Plan to bring better transit service South of the Fraser so those 10,000 extra people had viable alternatives to sitting in traffic in New Westminster and getting frustrated enough to pull a u-turn in a parking lot to shave a few minutes off their trip.

We can target enforcement in places like you mention, and the NWPD does have a traffic division who do this. Their priorities are not necessarily to catch “rat runners”, but to target the most dangerous road users at the most dangerous intersections. With a few thousand intersections in the City and a million road signs, they can’t be everywhere enforcing everything (and enforcement costs money!), but they are doing what they can against the tide.

So no easy answers, and yes I share your concern, but I don’t know the solution. I’d love to hear if you have any ideas to make the situation safer.

5 comments on “Ask Pat: Tipperary U-turns

  1. Verging on pedantry corner here but isn’t the no u-turn sign on Fourth, and intended for the short stretch of road before the park parking lot entrance, rather than for the parking lot itself?

    As a Queens Park to Skytrain daily walker I don’t mind the parking lot u-turners too much (much safer than the “right at Fourth and Royal” posse!).

    Th solution is obvious however. 365 day per year Farmers Market in the parking lot – everyone’s a winner (except my wallet)!

  2. I think the big issue here is the fact the drivers can get from 4th south of Royal into the park make it right turn entrance only from Royal (W-bound) signs would be the cheap solution a nice garden island would be the classy choice.. Also the problem isn’t just about que jumpers it’s the affect the light constantly turning red has on flow of the E-bound Royal traffic when flow is possible that is.

    1. Sorry another idea… this location has been bugging me awhile. The somewhat over reaction solution, close fourth access from Royal and create access to the parking / city hall road from Queens. It would be expensive and I am sure people on Queens Ave would be ever so happy.

  3. I think if you changed the light timing and made it much less responsive to 4th st traffic during rush hour, the problem would solve it self.
    While the rat-running is a pain, it also serves to increase the royal ave back log because of the frequent interruption of royal traffic for those 4 cars at a time cutting through or cutting in.

    During peak hours, make it take forever for the light to turn in favour of 4th st and after a few days of being backed up out the parking lot of city hall, the problem I suspect will start to self-regulate.

    Another option, have a barricade much like what the patullo has that closes at certain hours so that you cannot enter the park from 4th st during peak hours, but permit the city hall parking lot to be the entrance to the park during those hours. Park access is still available, and there’s no short cut. But opening and closing the barricade will cost money.

    And a third option. During peak hours, do not permit left turns out of the park. You could even go as far as never letting the east bound traffic on 4th st be able to change the light to green. Hence, forced to turn right.

    Again, they’ll back up for a few days, figure it out and that will no longer be a bottleneck… now where the new bottleneck might be, who knows!

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