Confessions of a Vancouver transit plebiscite supporter

Doctor, we need to talk. I am becoming obsessed with the forthcoming transportation referendum.

Last week, I travelled to Aruba via Newark. On every leg of the journey I could not stop comparing my trip with travels on TransLink.

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Leaving Vancouver, the Air Canada computers were not working properly. We were then delayed because a conveyor belt was broken.

Even though the oversized baggage had been screened and waiting on the belt, no one had the sense to let passengers go to the gates until mechanics finally got the equipment working.

Despite these breakdowns, I did not hear anyone complain about the continuous Airport Improvement Fees or excessive Airport Authority CEO salary.

We eventually made it to New Jersey. It was very cold and the hotel shuttle bus was late.

But no one was complaining. I told waiting passengers that if this was a Vancouver TransLink bus, these days the delay would be frontpage and radio news.

I boarded a New Jersey Transit train to Penn Station. After 10 minutes, the train stopped and over the loudspeaker we were told there would be a delay because the drawbridge was up.

Then we were told the bridge was not closing properly and we would have to get off and board a waiting train on Platform 2.

We all climbed up the stairs since the escalator was broken and took seats on the new train.

Then a voice over the loudspeaker told us to return to the original train. Eventually we made it Penn Station, but I doubt this incident would have made the news the following day because other passengers told me this sort of thing happens all the time.

I wandered down Broadway where neon lights and illuminated billboards revealed colourful tables and chairs set out in what were once traffic lanes. It was delightful, but all I could think about was how this would not happen in Vancouver since a growing majority do not want to approve a transit improvement referendum that could help reduce congestion like recent New York initiatives.

Over the past few weeks, I have taken to Twitter to express my growing frustration.

On Valentine’s Day, when I should have been spending time with my wife, I tweeted about a $30-billion crowdfunding campaign in Boston aimed at fixing the city’s failing transit system.

Since the state cannot come up with even a fraction of the $3-billion maintenance backlog, let alone $30 billion needed for capital improvements, a local citizen is trying to raise the money.

Vancouver’s system is so much better run.

Two days later, Metro Chairman Greg Moore was talking with Rick Cluff on the CBC Early Edition. As “no” side voters took to Twitter I had to ask, “Will no transit tax voters please show me where $ comes from to fund transit improvements. It sounds like a property tax increase to me.”

One of my followers replied, “I think they will try a vehicle levy and an increase in gasoline tax as an alternative.”
Is that what the “no” voters want?

Next up was the TransLink Chair speaking with CBC’s Stephen Quinn. I waited for her to justify the dual CEO salaries, but she struggled.

Most intelligent people know what the board was trying to do, but it failed. Nonetheless, I had to tweet this was still not a good reason to vote no.

That weekend, the Globe and Mail’s Gary Mason and Stephen Quinn both criticized the TransLink Board decision. I had to agree and tweeted, “It sure is hard to defend the yes side except for one thing. The need for transit improvements.”

The next day I tweeted, “It now seems like the transit funding debate is inextricably linked to the TransLink CEO salaries. Think about this when waiting for a bus or stuck in traffic. It’s nuts.”

I wondered aloud on Twitter, “Will people soon stop contributing to cancer research because of past problems with the BC Cancer Agency’s CEO salary?”

Yes doctor, I am saddened and depressed. But I am also optimistic about a yes victory since it now seems as unlikely as a Liberal government win a month before the last provincial election.

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