What's it going to take to get you out of your car and your car out of traffic? Carrot or stick? Cheap transit fares or expensive gasoline? Free Stanley Cup tickets?
Here's another currency TransLink, civic leaders and provincial politicians should tap to help people and goods move more easily in the Lower Mainland: crazy ideas.
And by "crazy ideas," I mean transportation suggestions that are a little bit outside the norm, not downright nutty proposals such as stringing a gondola up Burnaby Mountain. (Oh, wait...)
After all, anyone who has travelled and experienced transportation as a driver, transit user, cyclist or pedestrian in different cities has come across something that makes them say, "I wish we had that at home."
I've been fortunate to travel - and drive and take public transit - in the the U.S. and Europe a number of times in the last half-dozen years, and each location has insights to offer the frustrated Metro Vancouver driver. Such as...
SoCal signs: The Southern California freeway system is much maligned - and there is much to malign about six lanes of solid traffic and stupidly aggressive drivers - but one thing it does well is signage. There, even without GPS, if you know roughly where you're going, clearly labelled signs will help you get there - and they'll give you plenty of notice. Contrast that with signs on Highway 1, which even locals have trouble following. And while I'm complaining, try driving to Coquitlam from YVR: You have to follow the signs for Tsawwassen, Seattle, Surrey, Delta and New Westminster - but you also have to know to follow those signs, so good luck, tourists, and enjoy Annacis Island! Crazy idea: Good signage.
Scottish roundabouts: I. Love. The. Roundabout. I hate waiting in line anytime, anywhere, for anything. The roundabout, in the areas of Scotland where I've driven, seem to keep traffic moving, although I will acknowledge that the ones with five lanes feeding into eight streets are intimidating without the patient guidance of a spouse who can navigate, and they all take some getting used to. Crazy idea: Roundabouts (I vote for anywhere along Johnson Street or Pinetree Way, where the city of Coquitlam's idea of traffic control seems to be "Hey, let's install another light.")
Italian pasta: No, that's not a euphemism. I think every driver would be less stressed if he ate well. I'm not sure we have anything to learn about transportation from my family's homeland - the northern Italian roads I've driven aren't considerably better or worse than ours here, although they have a few roundabouts - but drivers there have a way of making life easier on city streets: At a red light, they will move to the right of a lane so if anyone wants to speed past on a Ducati or in a Fiat when the light turns green, they can do so and get out of the way. Crazy idea: Did I mention pasta? And naps, long naps after lunch.
A couple more suggestions:
Trucker lanes: Many people who don't drive in HOV lanes hate them because they think they're not sufficiently used. My crazy idea is that they become commercial vehicle lanes from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day, so trucks and vans and other vehicles used to move goods - i.e., the economy - can blast along outside of peak commuter travel hours.
Cheap transit: Give 'em flat fees - $1 for kids, teens and seniors, $1 per zone (with a $2 minimum) for everyone else. Yes, it would be expensive to subsidize but such a move would have to be seen as a long-term investment in changing our transportation culture - something that's crucial to keeping the Lower Mainland from becoming a scenic but frequently wet parking lot.
And the final crazy idea: Give TransLink the money and power it needs to make big changes. As it stands, TransLink, like school boards, seems to have just enough authority to provide a convenient scapegoat for the provincial government.
And what do goats like? Carrots, not sticks.