Needed: creative transport options

Thoughts while crunched into a car seat at Swartz Bay: When will the next ferry sail? Wish I had a laptop.

Thoughts while crunched into a car seat at Swartz Bay: When will the next ferry sail? Wish I had a laptop.

One of the computer-TV-phone giants promised us a free laptop, as a reward for switching our affiliation. Phone calls drew answers from a series of trouble-shooters, after the “press one, press two and wait” routine. Each agent promised to send the laptop immediately. It never arrived.

Should I totter through the lines of cars in the rain and darkness to coffee and a bathroom visit? No, the ferry might come in and the cars could move.

The car ahead starts and then shuts off its engine, a false signal. Another remembered thought: Sociologist Laureen Snider pointed out that the  world’s financial system gives dominant advantage to wealthy traders who use computer algorithms to make thousands of trades per second.

As Snider noted, numerous studies show that the unlawful acts of corporations cause many times more injury, death and financial loss than the individual robberies, assaults, drug deals and murders that fill the jails. Yet most corporate crime – from unlawful dumping of poisonous wastes to selling flimsy mortgage-based securities – goes unpunished. No effective corporate crime-control strategy has been invented.

A socially-smart business leader might change the economic scene. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, net worth $25 billion, gave $600 million to the anti-tobacco cause. Could he mobilize colleagues to swamp corporate boardrooms with demands for honesty, and strengthen the co-op sector – one person, one vote, workers and customers are the owners?

The car in front is lighting up, Another false alarm. What benefit came from changing B.C. Ferries into a half-way business enterprise? Semi-private status does not prevent revenue falling when fares go up, or prevent transportation paralysis when storms hit the strait.

Former premier Gordon Campbell and colleagues botched the transportation-planning job, but it’s useless to blame them for their faith in an imaginary “free market” and a fictional struggle between “free enterprise” and “socialism,” (as in healthcare). Commerce and social care are interwoven.

Arguably, inspired re-weaving and problem-solving are the skills we need to find in a 21st century successor to the politicians who built industrial muscle and social-sharing sinews into B.C.’s political economy in the 1950s to 1970s – Social Credit premier W.A.C. Bennett and NDP premier Dave Barrett. They both showed the leadership spark. Hopefully the NDP’s Adrian Dix will match their achievements.

Bennett, a hardware-dealer “private-enterpriser,” created two public enterprises, B.C. Hydro and B.C. Ferries, and strengthened B.C.’s public railway, while preaching against dangerous socialism. Barrett launched the Insurance Corporation of B.C. and the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Technology may provide part-answers to the Island-Mainland transportation puzzle. Can improved ship-stabilization devices enable ferries to ride more comfortably through storms? Can B.C. develop and export such devices?

Could the new submerged floating-tunnel technology – calculated by engineers but never yet built – be tested on a short Vancouver Island span (Nanaimo-Mudge-Gabriola islands) for possible manufacture, development and export of engineering know-how, and a possible future Island-Mainland link?  Maybe.

Could the dial-a-bus system now under trial in Helsinki, Finland, plus folding rental mini-cars at transit stations, transit-friendly tax policy and municipal oversight (lacking under Gordon Campbell and Stephen Harper management) plus railside transit-oriented development, actually reduce the number of cars on roads and ferries? Maybe, again.

 

The car in front of us is moving. The ferry is here at last. We roll aboard. I have been spinning transportation dreams for three hours.