First commute across new Port Mann gets good response

The new Port Mann Bridge officially opened Saturday, but the real litmus test came with Monday’s commute – and judging by the tweets, both drivers ...

The new Port Mann Bridge officially opened Saturday, but the real litmus test came with Monday’s commute – and judging by the tweets, both drivers and transit users were happy with their first morning trip across the new bridge.

Roughly 25,000 vehicles crossed the bridge during morning rush hour yesterday. A Storify search revealed commuters were generally happy with their first trip across the new bridge.

“Just crossed the Port Mann during rush hour without bumper to bumper traffic for the first time in my life,” one commuter tweeted. “Saved 20-25 minutes.”

“The easiest commute in ages!” another wrote. “No traffic on the Port Mann this morning! Amazing!”

The glowing tweets may begin to change once people have to start paying for the new bridge. The bridge is free to use until December 8, when tolls will be charged. Initially, the toll will be half-price at $1.50 per trip. That will go up to $3 per trip March 1, 2013.

While travel time across the bridge itself is reportedly much reduced compared with the old Port Mann Bridge, that doesn’t mean commuters between Surrey and Vancouver don’t sometimes hit heavy traffic.

CBC reported westbound drivers sailed across the new bridge Monday morning, only to hit construction-related gridlock in Burnaby and Coquitlam.

The new 10-lane bridge is only partially open with eight lanes, including new dedicated HOV lanes for buses and multiple-occupant vehicles.

The new bridge allowed for reliable bus service for the first time in more than two decades. A new express bus – the 555 Port Mann Express  – now runs from Walnut Grove to the Braid Skytrain station.

“We haven’t had a bus going over the Port Mann in about 20 years,” TransLink spokesman Derek Zabel told Business in Vancouver.

“We used to have buses that went over there, but traffic got so bad that people were actually leaving the service. There was absolutely no schedule reliability.”

The new highway coaches, which seat about 47, were about half full Monday morning, Zabel said.

nbennett@biv.com

@nbennett_biv

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