LAUTENS: Here's how West Van and Albuquerque are similar when it comes to transit

This column has been amended since first posting to correct an error.

Here’s recommended reading for West Vancouver council and staff, TransLink, and fans of the B-Line in WV including those who live elsewhere but are available as a rent-a-crowd for virtuous causes anywhere:

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The city of Albuquerque is experiencing transit problems. Some of them will sound familiar to our readers. Actually, rather worse. But there are parallels.

As described in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Stephen Ford, the New Mexico city had a forward-looking transit vision, currently curbside on the boulevard of broken dreams.

Albuquerque is roughly the size of Vancouver city, but its metropolitan population of 900,000 is much less than Metro Vancouver’s. Its main drag, Central Avenue, is part of the famous Route 66. ART, the public transit system, first proposed light rail, in Ford’s view a bad idea, but in 2011 it embraced “another bad one … a ‘bus rapid transit’ system built around dedicated bus lines.”

The mayor enthused: “We think it’s going to be a game-changer in Albuquerque.” Dead right. Something like a 59-0 football game.

Six-lane Central Avenue was permanently cut down to one or two non-bus traffic lanes in each direction (sound familiar?). The dedicated bus lanes eliminated many left turns (that, too). Congestion invited many motorists to avoid the area (nice option, if WV had one). Local businesses were battered: An ART spokeswoman admitted sales fell as much as 40 per cent.

Think local: If TransLink’s Park Royal-to-24th Marine Drive stretch – overwhelmingly unpopular, no matter how Mayor Mary-Ann Booth and her allies dodged or finessed the issue with that political humbug word, “compromise” – is rejected, wouldn’t the only east-west alternative be absurdly inappropriate Bellevue Avenue?

Or will B-Line proponents wake up – by decision day, scheduled for April 15 – to the obvious, that more buses need to be deployed at peak periods on existing service routes, some north-south routes added, the imperfect best we can hope for, unless the present two links to Vancouver city and Metro are expanded?

The last earnest proposal, in the early 1980s, was for a tunnel under the inlet. The idea collapsed, equally under the weights of neighbourhood politics – where would the massive disruptions be at both ends? – and the grade realities on the North Shore side.

In Albuquerque, the story only got much worse: the bus lanes are now empty. Problems plagued the hopeful solution of a fleet of 18 all-electric buses – built by, you couldn’t make this up, the Chinese company Build Your Dreams.

Ten old-fashioned American-built buses are on order.

• • •

Weeks ago I asked the North Shore’s two and a half Liberal MPs – the half being Terry Beech, representing the awkwardly split Burnaby North-Seymour riding – for their take on the SNC-Lavalin affair. Silence. This paper’s Brent Richter and Burnaby reporter Kelvin Gawley polled our MPs and got a thoughtful response from North Vancouver’s Jonathan Wilkinson. Beech didn’t answer, but his short tweet was quoted. West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country’s  Pamela Goldsmith-Jones was silent.

The Globe and Mail (unstinting praise for breaking this sordid story) asked Liberal MPs for their views, listing in bold print those who didn’t respond. One name jumped out of the list: Pamela Goldsmith-Jones. Stonewalled all of the above. I have long observed her political career with fascination.

• • •

And speaking of Goldsmith-Jones: Gabrielle Loren is seeking the Conservative nomination for that riding, getting the nod of experienced West Van fiscal critic David Marley.

Loren, who didn’t make the cut for WV council in last year’s elections, is a smart lady with community and West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce credits and, an accountant by profession, with strong ideas about taxes. Rightly. The Fraser Institute recently studied the combined personal marginal income tax rates of all 10 Canadian provinces and the 50 U.S. states and D.C. The “winners” (i.e. losers)? Canada, 10-0. Every province was in the top 10 in the highest-tax continent-wide league.

• • •

Eight years was an unjust sentence in an agonizing case – melding youthful deaths and the national game – for truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, whose driving violations were less than thousands committed every day with less horrific results. Career psychopathic “business” scammers get less prison time than he has. 

• • •

Ujjal Dosanjh ranks very highly in this observer’s regard, for proven courage and sound sense. The one-time New Democrat B.C. premier and attorney-general, and then federal Liberal MP and health minister, crystallized the punitive ICBC changes in a few words: Both NDP and Liberal governments having raided ICBC coffers during its fat years, the John Horgan government’s changes effective April 1 “curtail people’s rights and raise people’s costs.” Yes.

• • •

I’ve dropped a long item written Monday – ironically, sympathetic to Justin Trudeau as a pressured and flawed human being – in light of his expulsion Tuesday from the Liberal caucus of MPs Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott. All honour to them for their brave conduct defending the rule of law. All non-partisan praise for the strong words of Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, New Democrat MPs Murray Rankin and Charlie Angus.

Trudeau’s character is now revealed as a tight fit with an English writer’s description of a certain man: “A man who would lay down his friends for his life.” A political life now sullied.

Editor's note: NDP MP Charlie Angus was misnamed in an earlier post.

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