Controversial North Shore B-Line receives last minute support

Young transit enthusiasts advocated for an express bus line in council meeting

UBC student Christopher Coulson sitting in the overflow are at West Vancouver's council meeting. Photo by Nick Laba
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Reported by Nick Laba

A hotly contested plan for a North Shore express bus is getting a late wave of support from a group of young West Vancouver residents, many of whom appeared at a lengthy council meeting Monday that heard over four hours of public testimony.

The debate over the proposed B-Line, which would run from Phibbs Exchange near the Ironworkers Bridge in North Vancouver to 24th Street in West Vancouver, has generated largely negative responses from businesses owners and citizens over the past several months.

But that has changed. Emily Kelsall, who lives in the district and hopes to attend university next year, got involved a couple weeks ago after her friend told her that the people protesting the project had a good chance of stopping it.

“I didn’t really think it was going to be an issue,” Kelsall said. “I just kind of thought it was going to go through and that the people who were against it were just making a small ruckus, but it turned out that they’re making a big ruckus. So I got involved.”

Since the plan was unveiled last November, consultation and council meetings have been dominated by citizens voicing their disapproval for the project. The protestors have rejected TransLink data showing the addition of dedicated bus lanes will reduce congestion and improve transit service.

The debate over rapid transit in West Vancouver isn’t the first transit plan to turn into an ugly fight in the region. But one expert says the younger generation is changing the dynamic.

Former six-term Vancouver councillor Gordon Price said that probably the worst public hearing he was a part of was in 1998 when the city’s first B-Line was proposed to run along Granville Street to the airport.

“You had the people in Shaughnessy and all along the line that made all the same arguments: Didn’t need it, no one would use it, it would lower our property values — pollution, danger. Check,” he said.

Younger generation influencing change

However, Price said, the arrival of a new generation concerned about environmental and other issues has altered the public conversation.

“But this is different, particularly with issues like climate change and affordability, something fundamental has really shifted and I think that’s part of the response. Young people look out and they see that this world is not the same one that their parents grew up in and have profoundly benefitted from.”

The younger residents and activists started showing up about two weeks ago to speak in favour of new rapid transit.

At a public meeting Feb. 25, councillors heard for the first time from an equal number of people expressing views from the pro-express bus side of the debate as those opposed.

An unexpected turn

Andrew Farris, a 30-year-old West Vancouver resident, said that councillors and people protesting the project were surprised when he and 14 others spoke in support of the B-Line.

“The B-Line is a small but absolutely crucial step to reducing West Vancouver’s carbon emissions,” Farris wrote in a letter to council.

Last week, the Capilano Students’ Union organized “The Aggravating Race,” in which three of its members raced from Capilano University to Dundarave by car, bike and bus. Joshua Millard, a student and West Vancouver resident, rode his bike and beat the one-hour and sixteen minute bus time by 26 minutes. Millard said his union represents over 400 West Vancouver students who commute to school.

Christopher Coulson, a UBC student who travelled from Richmond to speak at the meeting, is part of a group of pro-transit enthusiasts from across the Lower Mainland.

“For transit enthusiasts and people who regularly take public transit around the entire metropolitan region, to sit back and allow one transit line to fall, [you] risk damaging the entire system,” he said.

At the end of Monday’s meeting, council deferred its decision on the line, along with a motion from Coun. Peter Lambur, to next week’s meeting. The motion gives staff 30 days to report back on findings for ending the B-Line at Park Royal Shopping Centre, several kilometres to the east of the originally planned terminus.

 

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