Divorces rise when the economy is bad. I’d suggest the same dynamic is at play among the region’s 21 mayors, who find themselves being squeezed by demand for more transit from residents, resistance to new taxes and fees from taxpayers, and a province that keeps hacking off more body parts in each go-round to find a solution.
As my Globe story highlighted this week, Langley mayors are deeply unhappy about the announcement from TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis that all the improvements not yet started from the agency’s three-year Moving Forward plan are now on hold.
Although that decision also affects North Vancouver, which now won’t get 15-minute SeaBus service for evenings and weekends, it largely impacts the communities south of the Fraser.
That has Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese even talking about pulling out of Metro Vancouver and joining up with Abbotsford — a move that likely won’t go anywhere for a long time, since Abbotsford’s efforts to leave the Fraser Valley Regional District have been shut down by the province.
The sad part of all of this is that people in Metro Vancouver largely support the idea of having more transit. (That’s in some contrast to where I am at the moment, Los Angeles, where I heard radio-show commentators yesterday slagging the mayor for his efforts to push transit. LA, they said, operates on the car and no one takes transit except for criminals, so why spend all the money?)
But, since the beginning, the agency has consistently found itself stymied in efforts to find funding models beyond ye olde property and gas taxes. Every time a new tax is suggested, the province, freaked out at the thought of a tax revolt, says no. In theory, everyone agrees there needs to be a new model. In practice, no one wants to take the chance.
Perhaps the NDP, if elected, can use up some political capital early by just putting in a substantively different system.
In the meantime, the pressure is causing mayors to splinter off into different groups — some leading the charge against the evil province, saying if only mayors were in charge, things would be better; some saying mayors should stop trying to do something they have no power to achieve; some unhappy about their region getting shafted; a few still hanging in, trying to keep the herd of cats together and headed toward a brighter future.
All such a shame, because any rational person knows that the cities that thrive and prosper in the coming century will be those that figure out how to build healthy city “bodies,” where people and goods can flow where they need to in the region.
That happens through good planning that facilitates people living in areas with easy access to work and the things they need to get to. Inevitably, it means good transit systems, which are like the veins and arteries of the metropolitan body. Building for cars only is like asking for cholesterol build-up.