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How transportation consultant Bett Lauridsen tackled congestion along Vancouver's Cambie corridor

09/10/2014 06:19 EDT | Updated 11/10/2014 05:59 EST
As she approaches retirement, a Vancouver transportation pioneer is sharing the secrets of how she reduced traffic congestion on Vancouver's Cambie corridor with CBC Radio's The Early Edition.

Eighty-four-year-old Bett Lauridsen led the formation of the Cambie Corridor Consortium in the 1990s, a time when traffic congestion was becoming a serious concern in the neighbourhood.

"The problem was so many people driving their cars and no place to park," recalls Lauridsen, a former transportation consultant who was hired by the area's biggest employer, Vancouver General Hospital.

"People were phoning city hall and complaining. It was just a mess."

The Cambie corridor was home to medical centres, police stations, businesses and residential buildings, and many parking spaces were taken up by hospital workers.

Lauridsen says 25 per cent of staff worked within walking distance to to the hospital, but took their cars to work in order to travel to other hospitals for meetings.

A new partnership is born

Formed in 1995, the Cambie Corridor Consortium became Canada's first example of a Transportation Management Association, a non-profit alliance of businesses, employees and government that aims to reduce single-occupancy car use. 

According to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, TMAs are usually more cost effective than programs managed by individual businesses and avoid problems that may be associated with programs run by government.

The consortium's biggest project was a shuttle service that transported employees and supplies between hospitals. 

A follow-up survey of 1,500 employees found 85 per cent of respondents said they no longer took their car to work because the shuttle bus was available.

Other Vancouver-area employers have consulted with Lauridsen on setting up their own shuttle services.

New challenges

Two decades later, Cambie remains one of Vancouver's busiest districts and faces greater densification. 

Arthur Orsini, the new outreach coordinator of the Cambie Corridor Consortium, says the group will intensify efforts to promote cycling, walking, and carpooling among its members.

"We talk with one business that says, 'here's the excellent thing we've done to improve carpooling,' and it's like, let's have a way of sharing that around," explains Orsini, who recently led the opening of a sprawling new cycling centre at Vancouver General Hospital.

Ready to retire

Lauridsen still stands behind the counter at Vancouver Hospital's Commuter Centre. 

But she has reduced her work days and is turning things over to Orsini and her son, Bruce Lauridsen. 

She is proud of the change she's been able to bring for commuters in the neighbourhood.

"I feel like it's my baby. I brought it into birth and nurtured it for 18, 19 years," Lauridsen says, laughing.

"This sounds weird, but we're kind of a model, if you like. And we can't just let a model disintegrate into nothing." 

"It should be gold-plated and put up there so that everybody can see it."

Catch Michelle Eliot with On the Move, a segment on commuter issues, Tuesdays at 6:50 on The Early Edition, CBC Radio 1, 88.1 FM / 690 AM in Vancouver

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