Tag Archives: transit referendum

Cough cough

8 Jul

Cough cough, much like Vancouver and Western North America, this blog has gotten a bit too dusty and dry from neglect. Forest fires and droughts aside, a few notable political events have passed since I last posted something in cyberspace of meaningful value.

Most recently Greece went bankrupt and may now finally slip out of the Euro. It seems there is barely enough liquidity in Greece’s financial system to continue paying bills through to the end of the month. Even with banks closed, the government has probably run out of Euros and will need to start printing IOU’s or Drachmas in the next couple of days, unless it can convince the dreaded Troika to keep them afloat with less dreaded Deutsche style austerity. The Greeks are probably roasted, but for the rest of us, who knows what the fallout will be.

In national news, our oily neighbours to the east did the impossible, electing a social democratic government, turfing out 45 years of single party right wing rule. It appears Albertans had grown tired of being too oil dependent and having no savings to for it. It shall be most interesting to see what the Notley Crew will do to turn things around there, many are watching them closely, perhaps none more than our federal politicians, who will be going to election this October.

An interesting federal election it will be in October, as for the first time there is a serious possibility that Canadians, tired of 148 years of Liberal/Tory hegemony, may be ready to try a new flavour of ice cream. The chances look good for Notley’s federal NDP cousin, Tom Mulcair: a fatigued Tory government handcuffed by a stalled economy and falling oil prices, and a soft Liberal leader who is only there because of his name – all this adds up to an interesting mix of possibilities. Many would say this election is Tom Mulcair’s to lose.

Greece, oil, and federal politics aside, what has most perked my interest this spring and early summer has been the disastrous plebiscite imposed on all of us in Vancouver by our dear BC Premier Christy Clark. The plebiscite asked us whether we as taxpayers would be willing to cough up an extra 0.5% of PST to pay for metro lines, improved bus service, transit upgrades, and much more. The plebiscite result was a resounding No.

I was not surprised by the result. I mean, who in their right mind would vote to pay more taxes to big government for something they may never use (for the record I rarely use transit and live in the city centre, but I voted Yes)? The whole plebiscite exercise, much like many things done in this province, was poorly planned and executed. At $20 million it was also a waste of taxpayers’ time and money. Quite simply it should never have happened. Instead the premier should have assumed the role she was elected for: to govern and make the big decisions of how to invest taxpayer dollars.

By going the route of a plebiscite on transit investment, our premier abdicated her responsibility as leader and foisted upon us and junior levels of government to do the dirty work for her. Like the Greeks and the Albertans, we now have one big mess and no easy way out. Who knows what the fallout will be.


Greater Vancouver Mobility Fund – anything but the word tax

13 Mar

I am a strong advocate for voting yes. I’ve lived in Rio de Janeiro and have seen what poor long term choices lead to.

My only question is why we decided to call this .5% levy a tax? Tax is a considered negative word by the public, and easy for the lobby groups to rally against. I would have chosen Transit Levy, or Congestion Charge, or the Greater Vancouver Mobility Fund – anything but the word tax.

Ultimately there shouldn’t even be a referendum on this. Especially since the premier decided to unilaterally impose another 3 billion dollar bridge on the region, despite the fact the other 3 billion dollar bridge her party imposed on us is a total financial disaster.

Half a percent is a little for a lot

11 Dec

Half a percent is a little for a lot.

The next couple of months will be critical to ensure the message is put out as to why this plan needs a yes, and how simple the funding strategy is.



For those that argue against, saying they’re not getting enough, or they’re paying more than those free riders, the reality is that for the public good, someone is always paying less than you, just as there is always someone else paying more than you. Ultimately all of Vancouver wins if the referendum succeeds. If it fails, then our region will continue to fall behind cities around the world where public infrastructure is viewed as a funding necessity, and not a pain in the ass.

On a road to nowhere: regional comprehensive transit stuck in traffic.

4 Aug

“Bike to Work Week”, how about just calling it “Bike to Work”? It borders on the absurd the amount of public awareness pushed during bike week, asking motorists to share the road with bicycles. What about the other 51 weeks? Does this mean next week motorists can stop sharing the road again? Indeed how is it even possible for a stressed out motorist looking at their phone to ever be able to share the road with anyone else?

Gripes aside, “Bike to Work Week” is a path in the right direction; however, the real battle is for a “third way” of entirely separated independent cycling infrastructure, integrated into a comprehensive regional transit initiative. Forgetting the fluff, this requires serious political leadership from senior levels of government, and not small cobbled together networks assembled by budget strapped city level governments.

Unfortunately there is little evidence of any initiatives from senior government. The premier of British Columbia is in perpetual campaign mode, having grinded long term transit work to a halt in the Lower Mainland, with the uncertainty of a transit referendum she has imposed, but which she refuses to take a stand on. Why is it that comprehensive transit has to go through a regional referendum, but a 3 billion dollar bridge over the Fraser River can pass without a single public consultation. If one is to be consistent, should the bridge not be part of this regional transit referendum? If there is no need for a referendum on the bridge, then why is there a need for a referendum on regional transit? In fact why is there a need for a referendum at all? After all, the Liberals won a clear mandate in the last election, so why not get on with the business of governing? Unfortunately the Premier and the BC Liberal Government seem to have lost the meaning of government. To govern is to lead, which means taking a stand that may not always win votes or assure reelection. Yet the blame does not entirely rest on the shoulders of the BC Liberals, it also falls on the opposition who fail to offer a viable alternative to the current governing party.

The federal government is not much better. Despite governing in a time with the lowest interests rates in history, the Federal Government has illogically taken to cutting taxes and spending, and consequently miss out on an opportunity to finance the modernization of the country’s urban infrastructure at near zero interest rates. The federal government should be taking the initiative to push more funding to local governments to pay for comprehensive transit infrastructure. Infrastructure to get people off highways and out of cars, and onto transit and bicycles. It seems not a day goes by without yet another story of a traffic jam, a cyclist or pedestrian hit by a motorist, a delayed overcrowded bus or trolley car service. Canadians spend too much time sitting in traffic and this is only going to get worse before it gets better. Canada is failing in a global economy where the difference between winners and losers is increasingly dependent on high quality infrastructure. The time is now for leadership from senior government, leadership willing to take risks to build a new society that breaks with the old.

In Vancouver, hats of to the city government for getting  “Bike to Work Week” moving, but sadly the effort is futile without getting the Provincial and the Federal levels of government on board. Vancouver and other cities in Canada will remain stuck in traffic on a road to nowhere, as long as there is no comprehensive transit plan with real dollars. An intolerable situation for a country where over 80% of the population lives in cities.

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Cape Town

31 Dec

I was born in South Africa, and while Vancouver is definitely home for me, there is no doubt Cape Town is still the most visually stunning city in the world. I’ve lived in Rio, studied in Barcelona, travelled to Hong Kong, and visited San Francisco, but all of them are just not as beautiful as the Cape.

Here is neat video of how Cape Town’s transit system operates. It has no LRT or subway, rather they use a system of separated bus ways. The bus ways enter into enclosed stations with boarding platforms. To enter the stations, one has to tap in with a MiCiti smart card. When leaving the station one has to tap out. The stations are secure and monitored by CCTV. Out on the road, passengers board at designated bus stops and must tap in on a tap in pad, and tap out on a tap out pad. Riders pay according to distance travelled – travel farther, pay more; travel less, pay less.

How simple it is! And oh yes, Cape Town is also working on a bike share program. So why so much hassle here in Vancouver?