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.
Coalition Of Progressive Electors (COPE)
COPE is a shadow of its former self after splintering since the last election. Some candidates who ran for them last time are running under different banners. Meena Wong is the new mayoral candidate from the COPE faithful. This left-of-centre party still has a good amount of support, but they do not garner the same support as they have in the past. I think especially the young vote of Gen X and Millennials have shifted away from this left-of-centre party over the years.
COPE’s big platform on transportation is to create a “V-Pass” for all residents of the City of Vancouver. It would function like the post-secondary student “U-Pass” where everyone is required to buy a pass and then can gain unlimited access to the transit system. All of this unlimited access for $30. It sounds like a great plan. It is until one thinks about the logistics. When the U-Pass came online a few years ago, transit use skyrocketed. Buses got really, really full and the system had trouble keeping up with demand. TransLink wasn’t getting any more money from the subsidized U-Pass, but they were getting the blame for not providing enough service. Imagine if the half-million folks in the City of Vancouver did get V-Passes. If 30,000 UBC students were able to clog up east-west transit service for years. Imagine 500,000 V-Pass users impact on the system. I think it will cripple the system. The V-Pass is great in concept, but I think the implementation doesn’t work because TransLink is dependent on the province to provide the money for transit service.
Non-Partisan Association (NPA)
The NPA is not as non-partisan as they once were. I have high respect for past NPA mayors and councillors like Philip Owen, Peter Ladner, and Gordon Price. However, current NPA councillor, George Affleck, has been the most anti-everything councillor I can imagine. Every time I saw his name in the paper, he was opposing something. I guess that’s the job of an “opposition” party to oppose the mayor and council that are in power. It was just that everything good in my mind was being opposed by the NPA. I feel the NPA has moved away from their centre position and have shifted rightwards on the political spectrum.
Kirk Lapointe is the new mayoral candidate who comes into the Vancouver political arena without any political experience, but he has an extensive background in media and teaches media out at UBC. However, his one hair-brained idea has cost him my vote. He wants to put counterflow lanes and lights across the city on all major roads. There’s been a big discussion about this idea on Gordon Price’s Price Tags already. The cost of putting such lanes up is immense with infrastructure, lane remarking, parking removal, left turn restrictions, and a contractor required to run the infrastructure. We already have such an infrastructure for the 3-lane legacy that is the Lions Gate Bridge and Stanley Park Causeway. We also have counterflow lanes set up on parts of Georgia Street. It works down there because we are working with a very narrow artery that really needs a counterflow to move traffic normally. Most busy Vancouver streets, though, are already 6 lanes with 2 lanes of parking on the sides, 2 lanes moving one way and 2 lanes moving the other way. Then during rush hour, we implement a temporary counter flow by removing parking. I don’t think we need counterflow lanes across the city.
Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver team have been in office for two terms over the past 6 years. They have not been without controversy on how they’ve dealt with new bike routes and new housing projects throughout the city. The party has been a little bit like a doctor with a somewhat poor bedside manner. New projects seem to be pushed through quicker than most like. However, I must say that the city has really transformed quickly in the past 6 years and in a way that I enjoy. There are more transportation options in the city with all the new bike routes and bike lanes. The city relaxed some bylaws to allow for a proliferation of new drinking and dining options. The city feels like it has a new energy about it that I haven’t experienced since Expo 86. Admittedly, some of this energy may have more to do with the Olympics in 2010, but some of these changes Vision Vancouver have championed are not directly connected to the Olympics.
In terms of transportation, my vote is with Vision Vancouver. They have moved forward with ambitious plans to expand cycling accessibility across the city. The current council has also been pushing for an underground SkyTrain extension of the Millennium Line west along Broadway all the way to the University of British Columbia. I think that is the biggest transportation need facing the region. I know people in communities south of the Fraser River don’t necessarily agree with that, but it is. (I do feel that Surrey is deserving of a new light rail line, though) The demand for the underground route is already there. The density and population are already there. The trains would be full from day one.
Vision Vancouver will continue to have my vote this year as they are business-savvy and progressive at the same time. They are the centrist kind of party that I think most urban Canadians find appealing.