Friday, November 30, 2007

The new TransLink

Yesterday, the TransLink reorganization was passed in the Legislature. Today, the council of mayors will meet with Mike Harcourt and his committee to vette their list of Board nominees.

During debate in the Leg, Mary Polak summed up what most Langley residents have been feeling for years:
In the time that I've spent in municipal politics in Surrey and as an MLA in Langley, I can think of a lot of things that people have said to me about TransLink. They've said things like: "What a mess," and "Oh, please blow it up."

They've said all manner of complaints and concerns and outright frustration, but the one thing I don't think I ever heard anyone say about TransLink was that they were accountable. To speak now about this new governance model and address it as being somehow less accountable than the TransLink that currently exists is absolutely laughable for anyone who lives in the lower mainland.

Let's talk a little bit about what people said, or have said in the past, about the existing TransLink model. We have the mayor of Surrey, currently, Dianne Watts who says: "There needs to be one plan that everybody is working together on. There's no point in having different levels of government having different plans." Former mayor of Surrey Doug McCallum talking about TransLink said: "We have serious structural problems in governance." Larry Campbell was quoted as saying: "Quite frankly, I don't see it working" — meaning TransLink. "We have got to get rid of the parochialism." Not my words; Larry Campbell's words.

Editorials in The Vancouver Sun going back to 2004: "TransLink has come to represent political gridlock in the lower mainland rather than a transit system that moves fluidly." Or again: "Instead of blindly heading down this road, it's time to admit that TransLink itself is broken, that it is incapable of doing the job it was created to do."

So no question that there are problems that exist in the current structure of TransLink, problems that won't get us to the kind of transportation solutions we need so desperately on the lower mainland.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another one rides the bus

It seems we have a long way to go before transit becomes a truly attractive commuter option. About a month ago, I came across the following letter-to-the-Editor in the Westender * (October 11th).

The bus makes me puke

I’ve been a daily commuter on the SkyTrain and buses for quite awhile. It has just been literally making me sick — these people who are let on the bus are nothing but lowlifes. I was once puked on by some jerkoff who didn’t have the sense to turn away from the nearest person. Just last week, some drunken lowlife lady decided to projectile vomit on everything. What’s wrong with all these degenerate, unemployed wasters? Do they feel that the bus is their own vomitorium? Another thing that has angered me in a nauseating way is those types who haven’t showered or worn clean clothes in so long that the smell comes off them in layers. Do these lowlifes know they smell like the Hastings alley they woke up in, or do they just feel they have to make the rest of us smell their misery?

I was gonna start lobbying for a two-tier transit system; one that has buses for people who have a two-digit IQ and have a yearly income under 35k. (Whoa... easy there! —Ed.)... So, I decided to screw going green: I bought a car. All those lazy lowlifes who feel it’s okay to stink up the bus and use it as a puke bag can enjoy their loser cruiser.

Done with Transit

Wow! Waiting in the rain for a bus that never comes pales in comparison to this person’s experience. Please remind me not to sit next to him/her on the SkyTrain just in case “lightning” ever decides to strike a third, fourth or fifth time.

Unfortunately, what this letter writer describes is not a unique experience; and simply making transit available (as some suggest) obviously isn’t the sole determining factor when it comes to attracting ridership.

Carl Congestion

* The views expressed in this letter from the Westender are not necessarily those of Get Moving BC or Carl Congestion. The letter has been presented for the purpose of discussion and is indicative of frustrations and experiences of transit riders.

Friday, November 23, 2007

What will Victoria do?

The Vancouver Sun reports that various mayors are busy bending the provincial governemnt's ear on transit improvements and strategy.

Langley Township mayor Kurt Alberts and the other members of the Livability Accord communities (Surrey's Dianne Watts, Abbotsford's George Ferguson, and Coquitlam's Maxine Wilson) met with the Premier earlier this month. His recipe for attracting provincial transit dollars was simple: density, density, density.

That sounds good in theory, but here is my concern. Port Moody just cooked up a batch of that same recipe by densifying their community. They had been promised rapid transit, and it still hasn't materialized. Gridlock is so bad there now that Port Moody's mayor votes against further development. They have the density, but no rapid transit.

I'd be a lot more comfortable with high densification if the Premier proved out his commitment by funding the Evergreen Line in Port Moody and Coquitlam. I'd also love a written commitment from the Premier stating the exact level of density he wants/needs to see in order to trigger these provincial investments. Right now, we're being asked to densify without a nickel of provincial transportation dollars to support it. All that will mean is training a generation of high rise dwellers to drive everywhere (Remember--Langley isn't scheduled to get north-south rapid bus service until 2031). And that means gridlock.

As Get Moving BC has been saying all along, we need investment in both roads and transit. We need it all!

So citizens aren't allowed to have opinions?

In the wacky world that is the anti-Gateway group, it seems no one is allowed to have an opinion that differs from them. In this week's Georgia Straight, anti-Gateway crusader Donna Passmore picks on a Langley resident, Rudy Storteboom for his support of the project, and for daring to write letters to newspapers supporting it.

Rudy is not a member or part of Get Moving BC, although the Straight seems desperate to try to lump him in with us. Rudy is an outstanding citizen of Langley City (not the Township, where I serve as a councillor, I should note), who is passionate about transportation issues. He has given countless hours to sit on the City's transportation committee. He was a member for years of TransLink's public advisory board. He's been to VALTAC meetings. He attends Chamber of Commerce meetings. He is well-versed in the issues facing his community. And, yes, he is pro-Gateway--like the vast majority of the region's residents.

Shame on the Straight and Ms. Passmore (and her "non-partisan" Gateway 40 coalition that includes the NDP Agriculture Committee and the BC Green Party) for not wanting someone like Rudy to have a perfectly valid opinion.

The last word should belong to Rudy: "The problem with people like Donna Passmore is they are using their opposition to Gateway as a political vehicle to try to embarrass the B.C. Liberal government. The fact is, we really need Gateway. The folks here south of the Fraser River, their traffic has been tied up in knots for years."

Hear, hear!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Gateway a priority

It was with great interest that I read the Budget 2008 report of bipartisan recommendations to Finance Minister Carole Taylor. These BC Liberal and NDP MLAs traveled the province and listened to hundreds of people present their priorities for this year's budget cycle. So what did they recommend on Gateway? Common sense:
As we have indicated in previous sections, this Committee strongly believes that B.C.’s environmental goals can only be met if the government continues to make strategic investments in infrastructure that will ensure a strong and vibrant economy. We are satisfied that the Gateway Program is crucial to the economies of British Columbia and Canada.

Nonetheless, the Committee recognizes that we received hundreds of submissions from residents of the City of Vancouver who almost-unanimously advocated against the Gateway Program — particularly the proposed twinning of the Port Mann Bridge. Conversely, we also heard from residents living on the south side of the Fraser River demanding the Port Mann Bridge be twinned, coupled with enhanced transit options for regions south of the Fraser River.

The Committee recommends that the government:
42. continue to make strategic investments in transportation infrastructure projects that are crucial to the economy of British Columbia and Canada, such as the Asia Pacific Gateway Program.

Hear, hear!

What else did they say on Gateway?
With respect to measures to enhance economic growth, we re-confirm the Committee’s recommendation that government continue to build highway infrastructure that is of provincial and national importance — namely the Gateway Program.

The report also expresses the need for improved transit to run in tandem with Gateway (a position we at Get Moving BC wholeheartedly support!):
Such incentive-based programs may include additional resources to promote energy-efficient households; multi-faceted support for the British Columbia agriculture industry; additional resources to promote made-in-B.C. biofuels; various programs to improve the efficiency of B.C.’s trucking fleet; and measures to promote environmentally-friendly consumer packaging. To allay some of the concerns expressed by urban residents, we also endorse calls for the government to expedite — where fiscally feasible — investments in rapid transit infrastructure.

A significant number of on-line responses asked the provincial government to consider providing additional resources, in partnership with the federal government, for public transit options. We heard calls for specific rapid transit projects for B.C.’s urban centres, as well as requests for expanded bus transit services throughout the province.

A common refrain we heard was the need for the government to make resources available to accommodate a significant expansion of rapid transit in B.C.’s urban centres. We heard a strong desire for the government to provide additional resources to TransLink for the construction of the Evergreen Line, as well as resources to provide commuter rail to connect the West Shore communities to the City of Victoria. Our on-line
consultations, in particular, highlighted several options for rapid transit in the growing communities south of the Fraser River, including Skytrain extensions, a light-rail system following Highway 1, and commuter rail along the old interurban tracks in the Fraser Valley.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Welcome to Langley

The Province blog reports the following:
Baseball star Larry Walker could probably throw a strike from Maple Ridge to Langley over the Fraser River, but it will take you six transfers and more than three and a half hours on TransLink!

I think most Langley folks would be surprised to read it would ONLY take 3.5 hours.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fare cheats

Kevin Falcon's announcement that gates will be put in every SkyTrain station to curb fare cheats and help keep criminal activity out has sparked a lot of debate in the transportation blogosphere. Personally, I think the gates are long overdue, as I suspect there are many, many, many people who use transit without paying. This, in turn, leads TransLink to raise fares for the legal riders and hike property taxes for everyone else.

Over at PelaLusa, we read of one example of fare cheating:
My mom told me about taking the B-Line (a long accordion bus) from downtown. When it reached the middle of the Granville Bridge it deliberately stopped. A fare inspector walked through the bus, fining anyone who was cheating on their fare. He told my mom that there were 40 such people on that bus. That would be a minimum of 25% of the people.