As most of you know, I was stuck on Burnaby Mountain last night, along with several thousand of my closest friends.
The more I think about it, the more I’m annoyed by people blaming the University for all of their woes. First, it’s not the University’s responsibility to wipe your nose and pat you on the head every moment you’re on campus: working/studying on a mountain with a single choke point to leave comes with some risks. We have accepted those risks by coming here.
Second, Burnaby Mountain is a microclimate, and there is just no way to get a reliable forecast for the weather up here. There have been plenty of other days that have been as bad as it was at 3:30 yesterday, and everything was just fine. The University can’t close every time there are a few flakes floating around.
Yesterday, things went from bad to worse very quickly. I was sitting in my office, thinking it was snowing a lot and that I should maybe leave before the rush. By the time I finished a couple of emails, the buses had stopped. There just was no way to get 8000 or so people off the hill in the time window they had to work with.
Then, the roads were clogged with cars. Cars everywhere mean no plows can move, and roads get worse. At some point, I think Security blocked some roads to let the plows get around, and things started to get better
By 9:30, the official message was “some traffic is getting through, but the roads are still bad; we don’t suggest you drive without chains or snow tires.” That was a good message: it kept people leaving in a trickle and crawling down the hill.
I drove Daniela’s car down around then (with her and Nathan), and it was fine (as long as you drove appropriately to the conditions).
This morning, I sent the following suggestion to the emergency preparedness people:
When the roads start to get really bad, close them to private vehicles immediately. Allow only plows, emergency vehicles, and Translink on the roads above the lights. Last night, I suspect the roads could have been kept passable if they weren’t littered with cars, and buses would get as many people off the hill as possible.
That would leave plenty of room for the plows to clear the roads. (Remember: we’re only talking about 2 km or so of roads here. One plow could easily keep it passable if it can move.) If Translink could run a regular schedule of buses, it would have cleared campus in an hour or so. People determined to drive their own cars could then be released slowly (to not create gridlock).
I really think the root problem yesterday was crappy driving. My impression was that every time an accident was cleared, traffic sped up and caused another one. If you aren’t experienced driving in snow, don’t: wait it out or take the bus. There was nothing the University could have done to keep idiots from slamming into each other in the middle of the one intersection off campus (except keeping them off the roads).
Bright points from yesterday: John Grant standing in the ASB exit for probably 3 hours, yelling at the top of his voice about the current road conditions and safest thing to do; Kate Ross, the Registrar herself, standing in the AQ for the same length of time, handing out free coffee tickets and answering questions about the conditions. She could have fobbed that off on an underling and walked home (since she lives on the hill). My platonic crush on Kate continues.
A group of complainers has at least posted some good pictures of the exodus.