If you think you can find any significant political support in your effort to stop a subway being built along the Broadway Corridor, you had better think again.
Both of the city's major political parties, Vision and the NPA, are solidly behind a train in a tunnel. City council approved the project as part of their Transportation 2040 plan and received what they considered to be a convincing staff report last November that outlined the benefits of going underground from Commercial Drive to the University of B.C.
And most recently Mayor Gregor Robertson and UBC president Stephen Toope produced a $100,000 report from the accounting firm KPMG, which the city and the university split the cost on, supporting a subway.
By the way, I was as puzzled as the rest of you a few days ago, when UBC informed my colleague Mike Howell that, in spite of what Toope had to say in support of the KPMG report and a subway, the university was "technologically agnostic" when it came to the mode of public transit down the corridor out to the Point Grey campus.
It could be that Toope got an unwelcome earful from UBC Prof. Patrick Condon, UBC's chair of Landscape and Livable Environments. Condon has been one of the most outspoken opponents of a tunnel. He has been telling folks a subway at about $3 billion dollars is far too expensive and will lead to unacceptable levels of densification. We would get more bang for our limited regional transit bucks if we had a light rail system, much like those in European cities and like Surrey is wanting.
Mind you, Condon has written that "aggressive investment in B.C.'s transportation system will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lead to healthier and safer communities." Maybe a subway is just a bit too of an "aggressive investment."
But given that the city has clearly made up its mind, you may wonder why the mayor held a "town hall" meeting at St. James Community Centre on West 10th Sunday afternoon. I mean the guy rarely gets out in the public particularly when issues are controversial.
This was not, as CBC announced, a forum by "the mayor and the city." Even though city staff from the mayor's office turned up, it was actually an event sponsored by the mayor's political party, Vision Vancouver, which they happily admit to. In fact, there were Vision Vancouver "donation envelopes" greeting the line of people as they filed into the hall and the people handling the remote mikes wore Vision Vancouver T-shirts.
The pre-recorded ROBO calls inviting folks to the event were voiced by the mayor's heavy lifter Coun. Geoff Meggs. And it was delivered to Vision members and "supporters" as well as, through the wonders of technology, people living in the vicinity of the community centre. So, while the 200-plus people who packed the venue were not all Vision types, nor were they subway supporters, it was by and large a friendly crowd.
Calling this event a "town hall" or a "forum" would suggest people were there to exchange ideas and draw conclusions. That was not what this meeting was about. Visionistas referred to it as "party outreach," bringing the membership up to date on where their political arm was at. In other words, it was, as one opponent of the project muttered as she passed me, "an exercise in manufacturing consent."
Meggs kicked it off with a PowerPoint presentation originally presented by city staff to council along with that November staff report.
This is the busiest transit corridor in North America. Buses have reached the limit of what they can do. Light rail won't make much difference except to screw up traffic on the corridor and cause the removal of most of the parking. By 2040 the current population of 200,000 using the corridor will grow by another 150,000.
What opposition there was in the audience voiced the view that, aside from the cost, as we saw on Cambie with the Canada Line, small businesses would be negatively affected and that sense of neighbourhood in Kitsilano would be destroyed. But they were wasting their breath.
This was a session designed by Vision to give information, not receive it.