Governance & Politics
January 12, 2008


Allan McEachern 
Ian Mulgrew pens a fine memoriam to the recently departed Chief Justice of B.C., in today’s Sun.
Among Allan McEachern’s many significant decisions was the 1984 injunction prohibiting street prostitution in the West End.  Actually, it was the idea of Attorney-General Brian Smith to request a civil injunction from the B.C. court, thereby circumventing the federal Criminal Code, to deal with a problem that had been unresolved for years.  As Mulgrew notes: “the chief judge did what politicians and other jurists had tiptoed around – he banned hooking as a public nuisance.”
The decision is still debated, with some arguing the connection to the missing women who became victims of Willie Picton.  Or that other neighbourhoods like Mt. Pleasant became the dumping ground for the problem.
I don’t believe there is much merit to either argument.  In fact, the hookers decamped overnight to streets east of Granville prior to the issuance of the injunction, where they plied their trade for years.  Mt. Pleasant had already become another stroll years before.  As had Georgia Street and the Downtown East Side.  Each was a distinctive market, largely unaffected by what happened in the West End.
The issue was really about the ability of government to maintain order.  If a residential neighbourhood could essentially be commandeered for whatever purpose, whether legal or otherwise, then the legitimacy of government to maintain order was in doubt.  
McEachern clearly recognized his decision was far-reaching.  “But the evidence I heard left me in no doubt the peace, order and good government of the West End was being compromised.”
His use of that phrase – peace, order and good government – from the 1867 Constitution Act, the foundation of Canadian government, suggests he fully understood what was at stake.
Gim Huey
In the same issue, Sun columnist Pete McMartin acknowledges the life of Gim Huey, who passed away on Christmas.  Gim was an accountant, a prominent member of the Chinese community, a constant yearner for elected office, and as McMartin notes, “the only person who ever caused Carole Taylor to suffer defeat.”
It was at the NPA nomination meeting at John Oliver High in 1986.  Gim had bused in dozens of supporters in his bid for a council nomination, and though he denied it, they were told to check off the top nine names on the ballot in alphabetical order.  H comes before T, so Gim got the nomination and Carole, to her astonishment, didn’t.
I have to note that P comes before T as well.  And so I got a nomination too.  Though one never knows what might have happened without Gim’s intervention, there’s a good chance I would not have made the shortlist, given that a list of ‘recommended’ candidates was being circulated by some of the power-brokers that had neither my name nor Gim’s.  
On election day, Carole, running as an independent, got elected, as did I.  Gim did not, and was never able to secure a victory thereafter – but I may have owed my political career to him.

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This is astonishing:

A comprehensive strategy for transit south of the Fraser, costed out, well presented and persuasive.  At first glance, it looks to be the kind of thing that keeps teams of consultants gainfully employed and well funded.
It was written by one Grade 12 student. 

Paul Hillsdon has put together his vision of a South of the Fraser transit vision for 2011. …. He is a Grade 12 student in Surrey and his proposal is far smarter than anything coming out of the Ministry of Transportation or TransLink.
He takes into consideration where growth is expected to occur, and proposes various kinds of public transit that run through these high-growth areas. He proposes a combination of heavy rail, light rail and BRT. All-in-all a very thorough report.
– Andrew Eisenberg, Livable Region Coalition

You can download the 30-meg pdf file here.  And read about it here.

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You have to be impressed with a city councillor who can actually write a book: in this case, Clive Doucet, the author of  Urban Melt Down: Cities, Climate Change and Politics as Usual.
You can meet him for yourself next Sunday, January 13, 7 pm-9 pm, at the Coal Harbour Community Centre.  And you can help support WERA, the West End Residents Association, with a $20 ticket:

Mr. Doucet will discuss issues of relevance to Vancouver civic affairs and politics. For more info on Councilor Doucet and his book please visit his web page at:
We are also holding a wine and cheese as part of this event and expect it to be an enjoyable time.

No doubt.  Email for a ticket.

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This popped up in the email a few weeks ago from Dan Freeman, a transportation planner at TransLink:

I know it may come as a shock to some of you, but cool things do happen at TransLink…
We’ve been doing some playing around with Google Earth as a platform for displaying passenger load profile data for almost a year now… One of my colleagues (Graeme Brown) devised a way to display our passenger load data in kml – the programming language for Google Earth. It allowed us to create some really cool 3D load profiles. We’re pretty excited about it, and we’re also pretty sure that no one else has done this before.
Graeme recently posted an example load profile (route #3 – Main St), along with a brief explanation of how to create it …

Take a look – it’s pretty cool – and send it along to other transit/transportation nerds you know who might be interested. We’d love to hear what you & others have to say, including suggestions to improve it.

You don’t have to be a data nerd to appreciate the importance of this.  I remember, when I was a TransLink director, seeing some figures which showed that the daily ridership on just one trolley route – Fraser/Granville – was greater than the expected ridership of the proposed Evergreen light-rail line at its inauguration.   (The visual display of this quantitative data would have made that apparent at a glance.)
Of course, the real difference was that Evergreen line would cost millions in capital and require significant operating subsidies, while the trolley routes paid for themselves.

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Lorin, a PT reader, reminds us: 

Metro Vancouver is getting to the end of public meetings on the new regional growth strategy (there are a few more in January). I noticed they’ve extended the comment period from January 15 to January 31.
I have seen almost no commentary or analysis in the blogosphere. But perhaps I’m not looking in the right places.
MV has set up an online forum, but so far it’s got just three members (2 are MV staff) and ONE non-staff posting.

The problem is two-fold, I think: there’s nothing particularly contentious in the proposed strategy.  The options are nuanced versions of past directions, and the strategy as a whole is another iteration of the vision that goes back to the Lower Mainland Regional Planning Board in the 1950s: “Cities in a sea of green.”
But hey, it’s been a vision that’s worked – at least when our decisions are consistent. 
The other reason why there may not be a lot of response is the requirement to register.  People are too used to commenting with a single click, as with this blog.
No excuse not to participate of course – and that works best at the public meetings.  But almost by definition, those who attend meetings are not typical of the citizenry in general.
And that’s why, too often, because those who care or are generally satisfied with the status quo do not speak up, the debate moves to the extremes, and it’s easy to denigrate the achievements we as a society actually make.  
I think that’s what happened to TransLink: failure to recognize what it did well, constant criticism of its failures and general contempt in the media made it easy for the provincial government to dismantle it.

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Bike-sharing systems are gaining momentum: at least 75 cities have implemented similar systems, with many more cities in various stages of research and development. In July 2007 Paris unveiled the most ambitious system to date and now has 20,600 bicycles at 1451 docking stations – one every 300 meters.
Will it work in Vancouver? 
TransLink has started to do the research, and they’re asking for help.  If you go to this link, you’ll find a spreadsheet with every city involved in bike sharing.  If you’d like to add something, you can sign in or register with Google, get an invitation to contribute, and add comments.  (Seems a bit convoluted to me, but I suppose it helps with quality control.)
Interestingly, TransLink has hopped aboard a blog – here – devoted to bike sharing to get the word out. 

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When you’re waiting for a bus, time slows down.  People perceive, (according to some study) that it takes 1.35 times longer for the bus to arrive than it actually does – or something on that order. 
It can be stressful.  Let’s say you have a choice: wait for a bus or walk to your destination.  The bus will be faster (or dryer), but only if it arrives in the next few minutes.  So you have to do a risk assessment: wait or walk. 
If you walk, you know what will likely happen: the bus will show up, but you’re probably between stops so you miss it.  If you wait,  well, time slows down so it seems like it would have been faster to walk.  And that’s why you’re pissed off, no matter what you do, and another reason why people prefer to drive.
What you needed to know was simple but unavailable: how long until  the next bus shows up.
Now, at last, a solution – at least for those with cell phones:

Here is how it works:

1. locate the 5 digit unique bus stop number, in yellow, in the upper right hand corner of all bus stops (or look on the TransLink website)
2. text the five digit bus stop number to 33333 from your cell phone
3. receive the times and route numbers for the next six buses at that stop

If you just want times for a particular route, text the 5 digit stop number followed by the route number with a space in-between and you will be sent the next six times that route will stop at that location.

Even better would be a GIS system and a readout at the bus stop itself – real time info at a glance.  You can go to the TransLink website to try to find the number of your closest stop here – but it didn’t work for me.  Not even “Georgia and Gilford Streets.”  And Google Transit doesn’t have the stop numbers on its site.
That’s the transit challenge in this world of instant information: everything has to work all the time for every individual’s needs.  And because the single-occupant vehicle seems to do so, it’s generally the first choice. 
But transit is catching up.

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November 26, 2007

Peter Berkeley, the bike guy from Brisbane, is in a good mood these days.  Here’s why:

“Kevin Rudd (the newly elected PM of Oz) is my local federal member, and Shayne Sutton (in red) who is my local city councillor and switched on to the value of cycling, worked for Kevin years ago and is good friends.
“The photo is from Ride to Work in 2006. “

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November 10, 2007

With each action, the Falcon style becomes clearer:
He travels and sees something exciting (highways in Shanghai, turnstyles in London.)
Back home, a quick announcement and a done deal.

From the Sun: “Malcolm Brodie (chair of TransLink) said he met with Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon a few weeks ago about the plans for the system but did not know the full details of the plan or when an official announcement would be made. He said he understood Falcon had devised his plan for the rapid transit system after visiting the London Underground.”

The politics is populist; facts are secondary to perception.  If the public thinks there’s a problem, that’s all that counts. 
Jurisdiction is irrelvant.  It doesn’t matter what municipal politicians say or think – so long as they don’t get in the way.
Someone has to pay, but the cash flow will go to the private sector.  Tolls will pay for bridges; fares will pay for the turnstyle operators.
The problem: priorities are distorted and opportunities are lost.  If the tolls on the Port Mann go only for road infrastructure, a source of revenue for transit is lost.  If fares have to be increased to pay for the turnstyle operations (including the personnel) or if the money could otherwise go to expanding service, transit riders lose.
And as jurisdiction shifts from a regionally rooted board to the office of the minister, transportation planning for the long term becomes secondary to populist whims.
Some are catching on.  The latest sign is “Keep Translink Public” – a group raising the flag on Bill 43, the act to reorganize TransLink. 
Take a look.

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