Thursday, October 1, 2015

Failed transit referendum post-mortem released

Moving in a Livable Region was a project supported by the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, the Vancouver Foundation, and the North Growth Foundation. It was run out of the SFU Centre for Dialogue. Started in 2012, the project’s aim was to provide a common ground for the business community, labour, advocates, local government, and academics to discuss how to improve sustainable transportation options in Metro Vancouver.

When the province announced the transit referendum, the project added the role of providing non-biased, credible information about the Mayors’ Transportation Vision for the region.

As we all know, the referendum fail. The Moving in a Livable Region project is now shut down. The final report produced by the project titled “Moving in a Livable Region: Dialogue for Complexity” was released last week. The report is a post-mortem for the referendum and the overall project. I suggest that you check out the full 16 page report; it provides some context on what happened behind the scenes.

The Moving in a Livable Region project team suggested the following as “lessons learned.”

  1. Sustainable funding for transportation is an issue that cuts across every jurisdiction and every sector in Metro Vancouver. Through professionally facilitated dialogue and a common basis of unity, diverse groups with varied interests can come together to develop a vision for working together to address sustainable funding for regional transportation.
  2. Early on in the referendum process, MLR provided evidence-based research on past ballot initiatives and referenda that highlighted three main points (i) the political process requires a lead time of at least 18 months from the development of the question and revenue tool to host a well-organized transportation referendum; (ii) there needs to be strong political leadership that supports a favourable outcome; and, (iii) there needs to be both a strong advocacy campaign and a strong educational campaign from a trusted source.
  3. Despite making this research widely available, the recommendations from this research were not followed, and a reasonable period for both the Yes and No campaigns to inform voters were not established.
  4. The economic, health, and environmental impacts of traffic congestion that were apparent to diverse business and community organizations did not resonate with or were not communicated well to citizens prior to the vote. Citizens did not have an opportunity to meaningfully engage on the transportation vision, referendum question, or funding sources; despite broad consensus on the need for sustainable funding for regional transportation, regional leaders focused their efforts too narrowly on diverse but representational stakeholders groups. Given a longer timeline, the province, Mayors’ Council, and TransLink could have developed an engagement strategy to ensure that citizens had a voice in developing the region’s transportation vision.
  5. The sector representatives who participated in MLR valued the opportunity to expand their networks, their understanding of transportation, and their capacity to bridge to new communities and across sectoral cleavages. Such a process can provide a model for other complex cross-sector negotiation.

The Moving in a Livable Region website will remain online, but will not be updated.

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