BC Transit gets a rough ride
I got a strong sense of deja vu as I read this news item. BC Transit wants to put bus lanes on Douglas Street in downtown Victoria. The shopkeepers are not happy. It is like a rerun of Richmond RapidBus (it became the more prosaic 98 B-line) all over again. “Say No to Granville Highway” had very little truth, but it had a huge impact.
As with the merchants of Cambie Street – and those on Broadway worried about the new tube – and no doubt people impacted by the other proposals – they have a valid point. What needs to happen is that we – or rather – the people responsible for implementing these projects – need to take this into account. If a highway impacts an endangered species – say a rare variety of dace – then mitigation measures are built to protect or replace its habitat. Well, that is what is supposed to happen anyway. With the Highway #1 expansion in Coquitlam, Kevin Falcon has just decided to ignore its existence. The dace is as doomed as the red legged frogs at Eagleridge Bluffs. But anyway, the process we have for the natural ecology is to try and protect it. What the system does not recognise is that there is an urban ecology as well. That a thriving community needs to be able to function, and that happens when there is extensive interaction within a small area. Density in and of itself is not enough. Services – economic activity – depend on accessibility and proximity.
And what I am talking about here is not just planning for buses, and using a fewer trees in tubs to make it look a bit less grim than most transit exchanges. But integrated planning that starts with understanding what is going on in your city in great detail. And just showing them some pictures and talking about U turns is not enough. You have to understand why they are worried if you are going to satisfy their needs. Part of this is accepting responsibility for your mistakes. Because we are human and our understanding is always partial, mistakes always happen. The trick is to learn from them and not make them disasters by pretending it’s not your fault. In the case of Cambie Street, compensation is long overdue. But the methodology adopted ensured that compensation was not allowed for. Instead of correcting that mistake, Jane Bird and Kevin Falcon made it much worse, by treating the rightly aggrieved business people with contempt. And thus making the job of future transit expansions even harder.
The worst sin of governments with secure majorities is arrogance. It led to the downfall of Glen Clark, and looks like it is going to lead to the downfall of Gordon Campbell. Because he cannot admit that his government has made and is making mistakes. And that is unforgivable.