The transit referendum. Coming 2015 to your mailbox.

a black MKII SkyTrain at Nanaimo Station

Oh has my social media ever lit up with transit referendum news. Here’s the upcoming referendum question coming to your mailbox in 2015.

Do you support a one half percentage point (0.5%) increase to the Provincial Sales Tax in Metro Vancouver, dedicated to the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan, with independent audits and public reporting?

  • Yes
  • No

And here are the projects slated to be covered by the 0.5% regional sales tax increase:

The transportation referendum will give Metro Vancouver residents the opportunity to vote on a potential funding source(s) for proposed new transportation investments to manage congestion, support 1 million more people living here and keep everyone moving, including:

  • better service on existing SkyTrain and bus routes
  • new LRT and SkyTrain lines in Surrey and Vancouver
  • new rapid bus routes throughout the region
  • replacement of the Pattullo Bridge
  • more frequent SeaBus and West Coast Express, and
  • safer pedestrian and cycling routes

More details about the projects are on Mayor’s Council website.

I spent my whole Friday morning pouring over news articles and blogs about the upcoming referendum. Here’s what I’ve been reading.

The idea is simple. The question is simple. The tough part is convincing voters that the referendum is a vote on transit and projects and that it’s not a vote on TransLinks competence/incompetence, ability/inability, popularity, etc.

Also, there will need to be some clarification.

  • How long this tax will be in effect?
  • Is it a permanent tax?
  • Will the tax only cover the projects listed? (which I think is the case)
  • Will the tax also cover general operating expenses not listed in the projects?

At an estimated $125/year to taxpayers, I think that’s a good deal for all that is listed in the project list.  Such a sales tax will affect transit users and non-transit users equally. Low income folks will be more affected by the raise in costs. A similar tax was approved in 2008 in Los Angeles to fund an ambitious transit plan there.

My fingers are crossed that local voters will understand the need for better transit. I hope they will look past the shortcomings of TransLink, which there are many, and look at the value of the projects associated with this 0.5% sales tax. I’m all for it.

Eating my way around Hokkaido – 3

Time for the third installment of Eating my way around Hokkaido. 

Afternoon dessert at the Sapporo Sweets Cafe

I heard about this wonderful underground dessert cafe on YouTube just before I left for Sapporo. Somebody had posted an entire episode of Journeys in Japan featuring Sapporo. The Sapporo guide for this episode is a fellow Canadian, Isis, who moved to Sapporo many years ago and is now a DJ and a TV show host.

My wife and I ended up going one afternoon after classes with one of our classmates. We had a free afternoon and I had wanted to visit the Sapporo Sweets Cafe. I had a little trouble finding the place. The underground city in Sapporo is quite large and all the shops seem to look the same. When I could finally find a WiFi hotspot, we were able to locate exactly where the Sweets Cafe was.

Desserts at the Sapporo Sweets Cafe

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富良野 Furano – the Blue Pond, More Flower Farms, and Shops in the Forest

After being awed by the lavender fields of Farm Tomita, we were on our way again. However, I had no idea what our next stop was. I don’t remember ever receiving a travel itinerary. We were in the hands and at the whims of our two accompanying teachers from Hokkaido Japanese Language School. It turns out that our next stop on our highway coach field trip was to the Blue Pond, or Aoiike (青い池).

the Blue Pond

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富良野 Furano – Farm Tomita

Hokkaido is famous for a few things. Hokkaido is the bread basket of Japan with farms covering much of this northernmost island in the archipelago. So Hokkaido beef and dairy are all famous products. Hokkaido is also well known for its cold and snowy winters. However, Hokkaido is also famous for its beautiful fields in the summer. In Furano, the area is famous for its colourful lavender fields that cover several farms’ fields. These lavender fields are also partly the reason we chose to spend a month in Sapporo. We were only a one-day trip away from the beautiful fields of purple.

furano map

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My (brief) Cycling Experience in Japan

Bicycles are pretty ubiquitous in Japan and a part of the everyday fabric. Kids, salarymen, sales ladies, and seniors all seem to ride bikes everywhere in Japan. Bikes are on sidewalks and on the street and nobody thinks anything of them. There isn’t the hyped up car versus bicycle antagonism that exists here in Vancouver. So I really wanted to experience what riding a bike was like in Japan.

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Japanese Sweets Creation

Disclaimer: I hate cooking and I’m really bad at cooking. Perhaps I was emotionally scarred as a child against cooking or maybe I’m lazy or maybe I’m incompetent. I don’t know. Cooking is one of the most stressful things in my life. It makes me extremely anxious and grumpy whenever I cook.

Given my disclaimer, it’s amazing that I actually enjoyed our afternoon workshop on making Japanese sweets, or wagashi. This was yet another cultural experience workshop put on by the Hokkaido Japanese Language School, or JaLS. A whole gaggle of us students walked over to the Susukino area and to the Chuo Ward Office all the way at one end of Tanukikoji.

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Vancouver Civic Elections – November 15, 2014

Here’s a break from my currently scheduled travel blogging. I just wanted to put my two cents out there regarding tomorrow’s civic elections for the City of Vancouver. The whole province is undergoing civic elections in each city, township, district, and village, but I’m going to talk about Vancouver since that’s where I live.

Civic elections are the most personal election because it affects my daily life in the city from parking to parks and from public spaces to property taxes. Most people unwisely skip out on civic elections because they don’t think they are as important as provincial or federal elections. Simply not true. Civic elections have the biggest effect on how your city/town feels.

When I watch these elections, my big issue is always transportation. Those who’ve read my non-travel posts know that I’m a total transit nut. So naturally, my vote goes to where I feel transportation policies are best. I’m only going to talk about the 3 main parties in the running for mayor and city council.

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Eating my way around Hokkaido – 2

Here’s more food from around Hokkaido. I just put all of my smartphone food photos from our month in Hokkaido into one single folder. It came out to 141 photos and 1.4 GB worth of foodiness. Here’s a smattering in this second installment of Eating my way around Hokkaido.

Lunch at Matsuya

¥980 lunch at Matsuya

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Sapporo Streetcar

Apart from the buses and subway system in Sapporo. There is also the Sapporo Streetcar. The Sapporo Streetcar runs in what almost looks like an L-shaped loop, but the loop is incomplete at one end. So the two termini of the line are literally two blocks apart from each other.

Looking east from the Susukino Streetcar stop

These two end stops both start in the busy Susukino district of Sapporo. Susukino is Sapporo’s entertainment district. It’s home to a whole whack of restaurants, host/hostess clubs, and other businesses of the night. Susukino is where you will also find the largest collection of neon billboards and adverts in town. This area really shines through at night.

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Kimono Experience

What a way to start my third week at Hokkaido Japanese Language School, or JaLS. We had done taiko drumming the week before. Now on this Monday in July, we were heading off to our next cultural activity of the summer program – the kimono experience.

We headed out as a group to Tanukikoji, a busy covered shopping arcade in Sapporo. It was only a 15 minute walk from our school to a little kimono business, Mitsuki Sakura (美月桜), on the 5th floor of an office building just along the shopping arcade.

walking down Tanukikoji in kimonos

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