Why this quiet Vancouver neighbourhood is a traffic nightmare

These residents are fed up with inconsiderate, aggravated drivers speeding through their community... and they have a message for motorists

“We are totally forgotten about.”

That’s how Barbara Borchardt feels after years of calling for help to address traffic and transit issues in a pocket of Southeast Vancouver.

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Borchardt lives in Tugboat Landing, a small community in Fraserview, at the intersection of East Kent Avenue South and Victoria Drive.

It’s a quiet neighbourhood, a short walk to Gladstone Riverside Park.

There’s just one catch.

Some mornings, residents can’t drive out of their driveways because of a build up of traffic. They often struggle just to cross the street while out on a leisurely stroll because of speeding, impatient drivers.

Tugboat Landing traffic 2
Borchardt says drivers used the side streets in the area as shortcuts to avoid traffic congestion on South East Marine Drive. - Barbara Borchardt

Last year, there were 11 car crashes, within a two-block radius of East Kent Avenue and Victoria Drive, according to Traffic Enforcement statistics.

On top of this, 42 violation tickets were issued, 36 for speeding.

And with an expected influx of residents moving to the new River District community - about a six minute drive up the road -  and limited transit options, residents fear the situation will only get worse.

More than 15,000 residents are expected to call the riverfront development home in over 7,000 residences, once complete.

That's more people than Yaletown.

Long-time resident Borchardt told the Courier that drivers use side streets in the area as shortcuts to avoid traffic congestion when there is an issue on Southeast Marine Drive – with no regard for residents.

“Whatever the problem is on Southeast Marine Drive, whether it is a car accident or the Knight Street Bridge in the rain – drivers come through our neighbourhood and they’re annoyed and they’re frustrated they can’t get anywhere,” Borchardt said.

“We walk out in the morning and there is traffic coming from everywhere.

“One resident’s driveway was blocked for 90 minutes one day – and I just thought, ‘How is that possible?'”

Having lived in the area for 25 years, Borchardt said the community has reached out to the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Police Department a number of times, and various strategies have been used to try and calm traffic, but not much has changed.

“I feel like… somebody has to be seriously hurt or die before anything happens,” she said.

“There are many senior citizens in the area who aren’t quick on their feet.

“Everyone’s patience levels are so minimal that they won’t wait 10 seconds.

“I don’t really know what to do anymore.”

She’s not the only one who feels this way.

The Courier spoke to a handful of residents who had all witnessed worrying driver behaviour on their residential street, including speeding, car accidents, road rage, near misses with pedestrians and elderly residents unable to cross the road.

Retiree Mark Heil, who has also lived in the area for more than 25 years, remembers a quieter time. 

“We’ve been here since late ’92,” he said.

“It was pretty quiet then. During the winter with the snow the kids could toboggan down Victoria Drive towards Kent without any problems at all.”

It’s a fair contrast to what things are like now in the neighbourhood. 

“It’s become considerably more populated … there has been a huge increase in traffic, quite naturally due to the increased housing and condos being built in the area," Heil said.

The 67-year-old said his biggest concern was speeding.

“The way people tear up and down Victoria Drive is just astonishing,” he said.

“People who are in a rush are doing well over the speed limit of 50 kilometres an hour.”

Heil, who enjoys walking his dog a few times a day, said residents have to “be very careful” when using the crosswalks.

“I’ve had a couple of near-miss moments,” he said.

“You have to have your head on a swivel. You’re taking your life in your hands if you don’t.”

He said it was hard to suggest a solution with the thousands of extra people expected in the area due to the River District development nearby.

But he did offer one piece of advice to drivers: “Slow down. Plain and simple.”

Tugboat Landing traffic 3
Borchardt says drivers use the side streets in the area as shortcuts to avoid traffic congestion on South East Marine Drive. - Barbara Borchardt

VPD sergeant Jason Robillard confirmed the traffic enforcement unit has received complaints relating to speeders and stop sign infractions on East Kent in and around Tugboat Landing.

“In response, we have increased traffic enforcement in the area and plan on continuing this enforcement,” he said.

Debbie Fisher, who has been the Tugboat landing caretaker for three years, said she witnesses traffic drama most mornings.

“I get to the office about 7 a.m. every morning and I would see 10 to 12 incidents daily,” she said.

“You can hear the traffic from inside my office – people honking and screeching.

“There are so many stop signs at the intersection. But nobody stops, and when they do they get honked at.

“I just put my hands on my head and think, ‘Oh My God.’”

“It’s a brutal spot.”

Jill Bartlett, 55, echoed the same concerns.

She's lived in the neighbourhood for three-and-a-half years and said it's quiet until rush hour.  

“I live right on the corner of Victoria and Kent Avenue South and there is a stop sign there and people just sail right through it,” Bartlett said.

“Usually people will just touch the brakes and very often they don’t even do that.

“I have almost been hit [by a car]. My dog almost got hit once.

“People just don’t stop – that’s just the way it is unfortunately.”

Bartlett hoped by voicing the community’s concern drivers would be more courteous in the future.

“If you’re going to come through, just be aware that people live here. Let people out of their driveways when you see them, be courteous, obey the stop signs and drive slowly,” she said.

Tugboat Landing traffic
Borchardt says drivers use the side streets in the area as shortcuts to avoid traffic congestion on South East Marine Drive. - Barbara Borchardt

Borchardt said the issue worsened when a dedicated turning light was installed at Southeast Marine Drive and Elliott Street, making it an easy option for drivers to cut through.

She hoped the city would turn off the dedicated turning signal during rush hour to ease traffic through the neighbourhood.

But in a response to the Courier last year, the city did not address the suggestion.

Winston Chou, manager of traffic and data management for the city, said his team was aware of traffic concerns in the area, in particular speeding.

“Recently, we have made changes to address this issue by adding parking spaces east of Argyle Street to reinforce Kent Street South as a residential street,” he said.

“Additionally, residents of Victoria Drive funded the addition of speed bumps last year east of Victoria Drive.”

He also said as part of efforts to upgrade all of the rail crossings along Kent Avenue, the city was reviewing traffic volume in the area.

“We will continue to make adjustments in the future,” Chou said.

“Providing safe and accessible crossings is a priority for us, as we have a goal to reach zero traffic-related fatalities or serious injuries.”

Borchardt said the area’s housing and community was lovely, but it felt like there was a lot of unfinished business, describing the city’s response to the issue as “vague.”

There are a number of community suggestions, including adding more speed bumps, flashing lights on the stop signs, pedestrian crossing signals and creating one-way streets.

Lack of transit in and out of the growing community is also a concern.

The Courier asked TransLink what its plans were for the area, given the inevitable population growth.

A spokesperson said they had heard from residents that they would like to see more service in that area and they were working on improvements as part of TransLink’s 10 Year Vision plan.

“Phase Two will bring more improvements to the area. Funding is dedicated specifically to introduce service to the River District and we are working with the City of Vancouver on how to allocate it,” she said.

“Additional Phase Two improvements in the area include reducing wait times on the 26 and 100.”

But for Borchardt, all the promises seem to take forever.

“We have to live here everyday,” she said. 

“We would like it to be a safe community, not a freeway."

 

eseeber@vancourier.com / @elisiaseeber

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