To appreciate West Vancouver, it helps to understand this map:
This is the region’s streetcar and interurban system at its peak around 1940.
Take a closer look at the North Shore portion:
Notice where the No 3 streetcar stops: at the Capilano River, the border with West Vancouver. At that point, if you were heading further west, you’d switch to a Blue Bus, separately owned and operated by the district municipality since 1912 – reputed to be the first bus-only transit system in North America. And though contracted with TransLink today, it still maintains a distinct identity.
Why isn’t it fully part of TransLink, you ask, given that routes and fares are otherwise integrated? Frances Bula speculates: “I’d suggest that it’s attractive politically, as it reinforces the image of West Van as a place that’s a little special, set apart, and with superior municipal services.” Frances is right: Blue Buses for blue bloods.
It also helps to appreciate that until relatively recently, West Van was a cul-de-sac – literally the end of the Trans-Canada Highway at Horseshoe Bay. It remained so until Highway 99 was extended to Squamish in 1959. Even the rail line through the municipality (the PGE) was unused until extended to Squamish in the mid-50s, much to the surprise of residents who thought the right-of-way had been abandoned.
Yes, there was the Lions Gate Bridge, opening in 1939; but because there was little through traffic, the bridge served as a gateway to the luxury real-estate being developed by the owners of the British Properties, the Guinness family.
West Vancouver, in other words, has seen itself as a separate place, and that separateness has always been associated with the disconnect, whether physically, operationally or psychologically, from the rest of the region. That, I think, is what the B-Line threatens.
For some who are protesting, I expect they’d willingly separate from the rest of Metro – a Wexit, if you wish. They maintain there isn’t sufficient demand to justify these lumbering buses that threaten their quality of life, their children and, above all, their parking and road space.
By demand they mean, of course, themselves, and people like them. Not those who must come from outside to access a super-affluent municipality with a dropping population. Not the service workers, the nannies, the housekeepers, the students, the commuters who have to come from elsewhere. Not even the potential customers for Ambleside and Dundarave.
Not the other beyond the river.