Archive for November 14th, 2009

The Seattle Monorail debate – The Blog’s Most Viewed Post

November 14, 2009


The Rail For The Valley’s most viewed blog post is “Seattle’s monorail versus LRT debate – Same story, different players!”,  which at first glance is a little puzzling, but when one understands the massive public debate over the proposed Seattle monorail, it is not surprising at all that there is still much interest South of the boarder.

In Vancouver, there has never been a real public debate about ‘rapid‘ transit, as the decision for every one of Vancouver’s three metro lines was made by the provincial government, strictly for political reasons and as such, any debate on transit mode, route, etc., would lead to political embarrassment. Simply, no real debate was allowed. The mainstream media is prompted to report positively about SkyTrain and the RAV/Canada line with large advertising accounts for obliging news outlets. Be negative about transit and TransLink and no advertising money for you. Don’t believe Zwei; go ask Charlie Smith and the Georgia Straight.

In Seattle, the US nature of funding ‘rapid’ transit construction with long term bonds encourages public debate, culminating with an electoral initiative, where the taxpayer could approve or reject ‘rapid’ transit construction by ballot.

It is this process of public debate that has attracted more interest in public transit in the USA and is much harder for politicians to ram through pet projects. More people in the Seattle area have taken part in local transit debates than their Vancouver counterparts and thus there is more interest in transit issues down South.

Currently there is a public ennui with transit planning as they are kept from the planning process and only involved when TransLink or the provincial politicians want a media event for photo-ops. There is a complete disconnect between the public and transit planning as it is seen as a ‘mom and apple pie’ issue and any ‘rapid’ transit is good ‘rapid’ transit and the cost of providing ‘rapid’ transit is kept from the public, lest the public wakes up and finds that proposed ‘rapid’ transit plans are dated and unfordable.

A good part of TransLink’s present financial woes stem from building light-metro at two to four times more than light rail – building more SkyTrain will only increase taxes and debt, but the taxpayer knows very little because no real debate has been allowed by politicians and bureaucrats. The result: The public in Greater Vancouver remain ‘out of the loop’ and treat transit expenditures as a ‘fait accompli’.