Afterthought: The West Van B-Line Debate Rages On

Communities are polarized over the development of a new bus route, and it’s sad to watch

(Nic Laube)

Tensions are running high in the once idyllic hillside communities of West Vancouver and North Vancouver. Residents are fighting over the introduction of a consolidated bus route between Phibbs Exchange and Dundarave planned as part of TransLink’s strategy for increasing the transit capacity throughout Metro Vancouver.

The debate has become so heated that councillors have been publicly expressing their frustration at the lack of civility displayed by community members. Councillor Craig Cameron was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying, “I’ve never been so disappointed, even ashamed, of this community as I’ve been during this B-line debate.”

Fun fact: if you look up the word “yikes” in the dictionary, you’ll actually find that quote outlined verbatim.

The pro-bus crowd includes members of the Capilano Student Union who say that the new bus would provide a much-needed option for students who have to take transit to the campus from West Van—and ostensibly anyone who lives in the area who does not own a car, but still would like to go places sometimes.

TransLink did reach out to a number of stakeholders in North Van and West Van, and even presented at an open council meeting on March 12 last year. It also engaged in post-consultation follow-up at council on June 11. Print ads ran in the an edition of the North Shore News, over 570,000 copies of which were delivered. TransLink also says that 68 per cent of respondents to their consultations supported the proposed changes to be made to the area.

Perhaps the residents claiming that there was insufficient consultation were unaware of these efforts, or perhaps they were aware and they just didn’t care enough to voice their concerns then. Either way, the city councils are not at fault for this, and neither is TransLink.

Most people opposed to the bus route, and the converting of road lanes into bus lanes, come from an online group called Stop the Road Closures (STRC). After the West Van city council voted against the line to Dundarave and decided to cut it off at Park Royal, STRC leader Nigel Malkin said that West Vancouverites “do not want their roads closed, they do not want parking taken away from the business district, and the children do not want articulated buses running past their school.”

Groups like this are an absolutely reasonable and necessary form of association for people interested in having their voices heard. Unfortunately, their voices tend to be shrill, demanding, and even ignorant.

On March 12, someone posted on the group’s Facebook, which is displayed on the front page of STRC’s website, listing their reasons for why they felt the consultation surveys were flawed. These reasons included a lack of control over who was allowed to fill out the survey, as well as a complaint that the phone surveys were “read by people with strong foreign accents,” and were thus “unintelligible.”

Their argument is that, because of this, all of the survey results should be made invalid. For my money, the thought process behind this suggestion sounds far more unintelligible than any “foreign accents” this person seems to be unaccustomed to.

I suppose you can just chalk this up as another instance of the insular entitlement we’ve come to expect from Vancouver’s most outspoken champions of NIMBYism.

It’s important to review urban development procedures, but the responses need to be evidence-based. They need to be comprehensive, and they need to prioritize social equality and accessibility. Polarizing the discussions and attacking and intimidating people during the reviewing process is absolutely unnecessary.