‘No!’……to what?

Metro Vancouver’s transit referendum resulted in a resounding rejection from those who voted.  And a  lot did.  They just said ‘NO’ to a .05% sales tax increase that, presumably, would have funded the Sky-train Plus expansion plans of the transit administration and mayors. So, did they say NO to transit?  Did they say NO to the admin/political consortium?  Or did the say NO to more taxes?

Probably all three.  And therein lies a lesson in drafting referendum questions; the more questions that can be implied, the more irrelevant the response.  I know a large contingent voted NO because they thought management was not doing a good job and a series of stoppages and a dysfunctional load-and-pay card-system (that works everywhere else) pretty much proved their point.  But they had plenty of other evidence.

Then there are others who simply can’t see paying more tax in any scenario.  They can’t make ends meet as it is.  So, for them, it was a NO to government in all it’s forms from senators to transit, from taxes to fees, from lies to yoga-on-the-bridge.  That group is just fed up with what passes for leadership these days.  I concur.

There are also those who don’t believe in transit and that group would also include me.  I think transit sucks.  And, further, they can’t make it work in Vancouver for anything less than 50 times what their plans call for.  Vancouver is ill-suited to a good system.  It is not world-class enough in so many other ways necessary.

I’ve lived in London and Hong Kong.  I have visited a half dozen other cities with ‘transit’ from New York to Montreal, from Paris to Tokyo.  Transit works best in downtown cores and with a gazillion stops.  The best was Hong Kong and San Francisco was a close second.  Why?  Because you could jump on and jump off at your discretion, cheaply and efficiently.  SF was more efficient in a slow kinda way but, in dealing with hills, it was great. Hong Kong was just plain uber efficient – moving more people in one afternoon than Metro Vancouver does in a week.

Why is this?  Simple.  We don’t live in the kind of density that makes transit work.  We will someday.  But we don’t now.

Further, we have developed a lifestyle that doesn’t mesh or work with transit.  In HK I could get off at my station and within a block pick up the evening meal and be able to choose from dozens of outlets.  In the other direction, my work was a block away.  But Canadians don’t have that kind of support/work infrastructure except, ironically enough, at Lonsdale Quay which, unsurprisingly, is only connected to the system by a slow boat across the inlet and buses.

We don’t have the little ‘support services’ stalls all along the street that most transit-using cities have.  Most of us shop at Save-On and such and just their parking lots are an effort to get across carrying groceries, dry-cleaning and that bloody briefcase.

And then what?  In the pouring rain, carrying your stuff you then trek for blocks if not miles to your house or condo?  Throw in a demanding schedule and or some heavier items and transit simply does not work for most people living and working  or even attending university in the Greater Vancouver area.

Transit would work if they stuck to downtown, the north shore, the west end and super high density residential centres like Metro-town and the new Oakridge (when they pull that off).  But trying to tie in Coquitlam is dumb. Those people have to drive to get to the nearest station.  Who’s gonna be happy paying extra to drive to the park-and-ride and then pay for the last leg of the journey that never seems to quite get there?

Here’s the real reason I oppose transit.  We’re trying to re-invent the wheel.  Cars work. We’ve built a massive infrastructure for cars.  We expect and plan for cars and have for decades.  The ‘car’ system works very, very well.  It is true that Vancouver is super-congested but that just really speaks as a rolling referendum that people prefer cars.

They want to keep rolling, of course, so traffic management should be enhanced.  Hugely.  But the real reason for anyone not liking cars anymore is that they pollute.  And they take up so much room.

Duh!  Go small.  Go electric.  If 90% of the commuters drove Smart Cars or Prius types, 40% of the problem disappears.  Maybe more.  Give parking priority to such ‘clean and small’ vehicles (like handicapped parking stickers do) and people would flock to the change.  How much tax dollars required?  Few.  In fact, govt. could well afford to subsidize part of the purchase of switching to electric and small.  It would be cheaper than building Sky trains and tunnels.

More to the point, the little buggies can drive door-to-door.

“Dave!  Where did that rant come from?”

Well, I guess it is silly but I am working hard to get my incredible old bulk up the hill as well as carry really heavy stuff at the same time.  Ironically, I value point-to-point transportation more than most. Even if it is only 150 or so feet.  I am managing to do what I need to do out here by being logical and simple.  But I can’t get around well enough in the city using transit.  So – it is clearly not logical and simple.  I think it should be.

Weird, eh?

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