LETTER TO THE EDITOR: TransLink didn’t propose .5% sales tax

I almost let this one slip under my nose! It looks like the Langley Times published one of my letter submissions from last month.

One of the things I noticed in the letter I responded to is how misinformed some TransLink critics can be on who did what. I could explain more, but the best explanation would probably be to read my letter:

Editor: I think that Gordon Price is right — whoever set this widespread anti-TransLink agenda has really damaged the state of transit debate in this region.

Particularly, the recent letter in The Times (“TransLink is never satisfied,” Sept. 12) is like many I’ve read before, in that it’s painting a completely incorrect picture of TransLink. If you’ve heard about the .5 per cent sales tax proposal recently, it was brought up by two well-known South of Fraser transit advocates — not by TransLink. TransLink’s board has never requested a sales tax of such calibre for transit.

The .5 per cent sales tax proposal was first brought up earlier this year by a group of people we have previously elected to lead us: our mayors. The Regional Mayors’ Council has been very vocal in trying to ensure that transit investment in this region can move forward.

Why is that? Because they know that investing in transit is the most efficient way of providing needed new transportation options for a growing population….

[READ MORE – Langley Times]

Why I’m voting for the BC NDP this election (or, at least, I would)

If you know me (and aren’t one of my closer friends on Facebook), you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been quiet about my position for this coming B.C. provincial election. There are a lot of you out there who might be interested in where I may be going in life, and might – perhaps – start becoming concerned that I’m being brainwashed into supporting whoever I support in this election. After all, some of you may know that my mom, Narima Dela Cruz (a realtor and a top 25 Canadian immigrant) ran for the NDP candidacy nomination in Surrey-Tynehead. And, as her son, I didn’t really have much of a choice but to support her and believe in her unconditionally as they do in exchange for me.

But, you might also (or might not) know me for my largely non-partisan efforts so far – my numerous newsletters, the grassroots campaigns like Better Surrey Rapid Transit (skytrainforsurrey.org), or perhaps my new infographic on TransLink affordability, which was posted on reddit and reached out to hundreds of people in Metro Vancouver. These efforts, motivated by my own interests, have been going on long before my mom became involved with the NDP.

Well, today, I’m coming out. No, this isn’t a sexual orientation thing (for the record, I’m straight). This is about where my mind is going in this coming election. Or, would be, of course, if I could vote. My birthday is not until September, so I will be 4 months short of 18 when the big day happens. With 8 days left, I figure that now would be a good time to speak about what I think.

I have no shame in saying, with my hands down, that if I could vote in this election, I would be voting for the BC NDP.

Adrian Dix, leader of the BC NDP, speaking in Kamloops
Adrian Dix, leader of the BC NDP, speaking in Kamloops. Photo by BC NDP, CC-BY

I was reading a column recently on the Georgia Straight newspaper [CLICK HERE] that was written by a person who once voted for the opposing party (the BC Liberals) all the time, but stated that he would be voting for the NDP this time around because of Adrian Dix. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything, the writer did make this comment, which I think is particularly interesting:

“Dix has tried to do politics differently and has waged an honourable campaign. His bet is that the people prefer to be told the facts, hear more than talking points and platitudes, and want the straight goods, even if they sometimes may not like to hear it. As a voter, I like the idea that a political leader assumes that I am intelligent, and not a moron that falls for incendiary, superficial, and ultimately misleading sound bites.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why in this election, I have huge respect for the B.C. NDP.

I think a fully-detailed, multi-page, laid-out platform with facts and numbers like the one the NDP has prepared on its website can send a strong message to voters. It sends a message that this party won’t form a government that will make decisions based on assumptions.

Statistics like the ones the NDP are using, citing non-partisan sources and never making them up, turn me on in much the same way as electricity fills a light-bulb. Those of you who are aware of how I have been approaching an issue in my city with the Better Surrey Rapid Transit advocacy (skytrainforsurrey.org) for the past 2 years will know that I think in much the same way. I also believe in having a good base of facts, and believe that they matter in a person’s judgment in issues. I also believe in honesty and statistics in campaigning in the same way the NDP has approached BC voters, with huge popularity.

And, I will hate you if you lie, especially if it’s about an issue I am particularly passionate about. I’m definitely not a fan of the statistical inconsistency coming from the B.C. Liberals and Christy Clark.

Just a few days ago, I released a “Reality check” on my grassroots campaign Better Surrey Rapid Transit, grilling the Green Party and leader Jane Sterk for making a somewhat misleading claim about the land-use impacts of SkyTrain rapid transit (CLICK HERE TO VIEW THIS), pitting a claim that did not have a source against 5 studies that prove it wrong.

A sizable number of my friends are Green voters, and I found myself urging some of them not to take this personally. I guess that’s because if I could vote in the upcoming election, I wouldn’t be tempted to vote for the Green party, even if I had more involvement as an environmentalist than I do now. As you could probably guess, I’ve been turned off because of this.

The BC Greens and Jane Sterk say that SkyTrain encourages sprawl, but the studies that I referenced say exactly the opposite. This is a picture of Metrotown, one of the biggest examples of how SkyTrain has shaped urban growth in Metro Vancouver.
The BC Green Party and Jane Sterk say that SkyTrain encourages sprawl, but the studies that I referenced say exactly the opposite. This is a picture of Metrotown, one of the biggest examples of how SkyTrain has shaped urban growth in Metro Vancouver.

One of the things that goes through my mind when I think about the B.C. Green Party and this claim by Jane Sterk is that they don’t seem to have all of their facts and their platform in order. The claim that Jane made in the Vancouver Courier report was never a part of the B.C. Green platform, and that’s something that can cause disagreement within the party. What that tells me is that they don’t have it together. They don’t have the full collaboration and full preparation that a party needs to really woo voters and win elections. (I’m pro-environment, so if anyone from the Green Party is reading, this is input you can use for future elections!)

The B.C. Greens don’t have what the B.C. NDP has, to me. What the BC NDP has that ultimately gives them my support is that their party and their leader have demonstrated a great knowledge of what the issues are in B.C., and a proper plan on how to fix those issues that did not skimp in any regard. We don’t need to worry about how they will do after the election. Just judging by the amount of detail and attention put into this plan, it looks like the BC NDP are going to have it handled if they get a majority vote.

So, well, that’s it. This election, if I could vote, I would be voting for change for the better and the BC NDP. Now, you know why. I’m not trying to lecture anyone on who to vote for… but if I have inspired you, then my pleasure! That’s what I started blogging for.

Adrian Dix, leader of the BC NDP, speaking in the City of Surrey. Photo by BC NDP, CC-BY
Adrian Dix, leader of the BC NDP, speaking in the City of Surrey. Photo by BC NDP, CC-BY

Vancouver advocate wants a West-End subway

Photo: Vancouver West End. From Wikimedia Commons - Socceronly
Photo: Vancouver West End. From Wikimedia Commons – Socceronly

This is one I will have to go “huh” at, because the writer brings up a very interesting and very legitimate point.

Although I think Surrey at this point has a greater need due to increasing car use, I’ve experienced transit on the West End (the densely populated area on the western end of the downtown Vancouver peninsula) and I will have to agree – it sucks.

West End transit is very slow and exceptionally inconvenient, and cannot be relied on by those who want to travel around on a timely basis. Robson, Denman, Davie and Granville are almost always clogged by traffic, and this is part of why buses in these areas are often delayed. These are the four major streets servicing the West End area – and about the only streets with bus routes, meaning capacity can be and is an issue. Unfortunately, these major streets are very narrow and few and far between, leaving light rail/streetcars as a not very viable option for the West End on Davie, Denman or Robson to increase capacity. Mixed-traffic streetcars would have trouble navigating the undivided four-lane roads in mixed lanes, which have no turn lanes and are restricted to two lanes during off-peak hours as parking takes over curb lanes. Extremely restricted roadway capacity and parking space for on-corridor business in the area means taking away lanes for either buses or light rail is not an option.

A streetcar/LRT line down Pacific Blvd and Beach Avenue remains a last possibility, but probably stands to bring little or no travel benefit, because of its longer and indirect route with no improvement in connections to important destinations or hubs downtown – such as bus terminals, Waterfront Station, and others. A streetcar on this corridor has actually been proposed as part of Vancouver’s streetcar proposal, but only as far as Granville; it would not extend to the West End or English Bay.

West End Map. From CityTalks website.
West End Map. From CityTalks website.

The issue with the West End is that it is simply far too dense for the local infrastructure in every way. It’s an issue that I am familiar with as this issue is present everywhere in my hometown city of the Manila, Philippines – where the city’s high density is serviced with very much underbuilt transportation infrastructure.

It seems logical to think that the only solution left for the West End is a grade-separated subway rapid transit extension. However, a subway would be far too disruptive of a priority based on the needs in other areas of the region. So, that leaves this as a matter to be discussed – and a great matter to bring up in advance of an election where transportation funding will be a primary debate topic. It should remind us that, let alone the transit problems that have been brought up and are priorities (like Surrey and the Broadway corridor), there are other problems to address that should be priorities but have not been made as priorities – and that’s how serious the issue of transit need is here in Metro Vancouver.

Forget the Broadway Line, let’s jump on the English Bay SkyTrain line

On the Georgia Straight, by Stephen Hui

After the Evergreen Line is finally completed, TransLink’s next big project could be light rail in Surrey or some sort of rapid transit in Vancouver’s Broadway corridor. One option the regional transportation authority isn’t studying is an extension of the Expo Line in downtown Vancouver.

At the Straight, we get all sorts of reasonable and far-fetched proposals in our inboxes. This proposal is one of them, but I’ll let you decide how realistic it is.

Frank Jameson, who has a barely-there site called Vancouverrr, wrote in to say: “The Expo Line should come to English Bay.” He wants to see a new tunnel bored under the West End, and he plans to make it a provincial election issue.

This tunnel would carry the Expo Line to two new stations: Mount Robson station at Cardero Street and English Bay station at Bidwell Street. Presumably, this means the first station would be at Robson and Cardero streets and the second would sit near English Bay Beach.

It’s not clear whether the Expo Line would split into two branches (English Bay and Waterfront) at Burrard Station. Perhaps a new English Bay line could have separate trains, requiring a transfer at Burrard.

The rationale? Jameson says the English Bay area has the “slowest transit service” in the Lower Mainland. Fireworks and festivals also disrupt bus service in the area. And, you know, lots of people live there. “We deserve better transit. We want a subway,” he writes.

So, over to you. Is it time for the SkyTrain to pull into English Bay?

Japan: A sustainability shift example for the world

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

I love Japan, and I find that there is so much about it in its people’s culture, traditions and ways of thinking that the rest of the world should consider following, to solve problems and make progress in a world of uncertainty and in a world that needs some change.

The Japan I see to day is a great place that triumphs high fuel efficiency in vehicles, compactness and efficiency, and electrified rail lines as the primary, most affordable and most widely used form of transportation. I actually never knew, however, that it was on the verge of today’s China at one point in the past – encouraging middle-class citizens onto cars and creating wastelands of its natural environments, and creating pollution and illness in cities as a result. So, when I read this, it brought me great surprise to think that today’s Japan could not have been today’s Japan with the presence of leadership and a voice in the opposition parties, even as they never came to power.

From the International Herald Tribune Global Opinion’s Latitude:

Japan’s Pollution Diet

By ALEXANDRA HARNEY

TOKYO — Seeing Beijing wreathed in smog throughout the winter, it has been hard not to worry about the costs of China’s rapid economic growth. As Jon Stewart pointed out on The Daily Show: Can’t a country capable of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty find a way to keep its own capital safe for habitation?

Japan rightly prides itself on blue skies, Prius taxis and mandatory recycling.

Five decades ago, people were asking similar questions about Japan. Even as the world marveled at the country’s 10 percent annual growth, alarm was growing over air pollution in several cities. Emissions of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide tripled during the 1960s. Japan became known for pollution-related illnesses: Yokkaichi asthma, Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) — both named after the cities where they first appeared — and cadmium poisoning, known as itai-itai, or “ouch-ouch,” because of the excruciating bone pain it caused.

Today, Japanese cities are among the world’s least polluted, according to the World Health Organization. Japan’s environmental record is hardly spotless, but the country rightly prides itself on blue skies, Prius taxis and mandatory recycling. What’s more, it managed to clean up without sacrificing growth by investing in pollution-control technologies and giving local governments leeway to tighten standards beyond national requirements.

It wasn’t easy. The Liberal Democratic Party, which governed Japan almost continuously from 1955 to 2009 and returned to power in December, wasn’t proactive in cleaning up the country’s air and water. That’s partly because until the mid-1990s Japan’s electoral system incited politicians to pander to the interests of business. With candidates from the same party required to also run against one another, most politicians stood little chance of distinguishing themselves on policy and so tried to secure votes by courting business and industry associations.

It was only when citizens’ movements, which grew out of protests against the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and the Vietnam War, got the attention of opposition parties in the 1960s and early 1970s that the government was forced to confront pollution. “I saw the government and L.D.P. as responding just enough, just in time, when the pressure got strong enough that they could defuse the opposition and stay in power,” said Timothy George, a professor at the University of Rhode Island and the author of a book on Minamata disease.

The first result was a blizzard of laws — 14 passed at once — in what became known as the Pollution Diet of 1970. Air pollution fell dramatically in the years that followed.

[READ MORE – CLICK HERE]