If you didn’t know we had a 25-year regional plan, don’t feel bad. Most people’s brains rust over when faced with terms like ‘Regional Context’ and ‘Transportation Demand Strategies’. But ‘Metro Vancouver 2040 – Shaping Our Future‘ is a plan so thorough, it was adopted unanimously in 2011 by 21 municipalities, a treaty First Nation,  Translink and adjacent regional districts. So if you live here, your council approved it. One would be be hard pressed to get that herd of cats to agree on the colour of the sky.

FirefoxScreenSnapz100So why isn’t this miraculous self-help book for our area’s growth and development being taught in schools, lauded in coffee shops and dissected on radio phone in shows? We’ll get to that. But first, let’s look at a few highlights that I discovered by getting up early for one of Metro Vancouver’s Sustainability Breakfast events.

With a million people saving up to move here by 2040, we need to align regional vision and local plans. We need to decide where to put our new friends, where they will work and how they will get around. It’s obvious that we can’t just build a taller downtown and spread single family sprawl miles into the suburbs. (Ask Calgary how that’s working out for them) Besides the fact that we have a mountain range, a border and the Pacific Ocean hemming us in, the simple math on transit shows that sending full trains and buses one way into town just so they can ride back to the burbs 90% empty to pick up more commuters just doesn’t make sense. That’s why density is being deliberately created in a series of urban centers and transit hubs that feed each other. Much to the apparent surprise of every neighbourhood that gets a residential tower approved.

Metro 2040 protects certain kinds of land uses. Industrial lands are becoming more scarce, under pressure from residential development profiteers. But we need those spaces for industries to employ people and provide local products and services. Likewise with our agricultural lands, which, although only comprising 1.5% of BC’s farmland, provide some 27% of the province’s farm receipts. So don’t expect it to get any easier to get approval to plow under a blueberry field or industrial park for your next townhome project.

We all know Vancouverites try to work as little as possible anyway. So 47% of the region’s land base is designated for conservation and recreation. And you can bet a majority of people want that protection to continue. Metro 2040 identifies sensitive ecosystems, wildlife corridors and areas for humans to get their nature fix. So again, we are looking at more people in about the same space. Trying to get around.

Which brings us to cars. Or rather, not.  The auto; a fun idea for the 20th century, when we didn’t really know any better. Car use in our region is actually flat and/or declining. Even now, 27% of trips in Metro Vancouver are made by walking, cycling or transit. The target for 2040 is to almost double that total to 50%. Which brings us to the Mayor’s Council and the upcoming referendum on Transit. You’ve probably heard of THAT by now, as it means we are being asked to once again dig into what’s left of our take home pay with a half-percent added on to the PST in Metro Vancouver. With this sacrifice, we are supposed to also get a bunch more money from Victoria and Ottawa to build a Broadway subway, light rail through Surrey and a bunch of other stuff the really smart transportation people say we need.

But of course, so few people have been paying attention so far, that the whole Metro 2040 house of cards is in danger of being scuttled by a bunch of folks whose annual salaries average what the President of Translink spends on lunches in a year. They are understandably pissed about that inequity, and like anybody coming to a meeting late, think they must be able to offer a better idea than the one the overpaid desk jockeys have been working on for years.

So what’s a citizen to do? And how can Metro Vancouver tell their sustainability story better to help?

Well, if you have read this far (thanks – both of you) then why not continue by reading some of the Metro 2040 website. There’s a dry video that takes you through the overview, some cool maps and a baseline annual report on how we are doing so far.

But overall, you’ll probably find the experience daunting. It’s a lot of text, a staggering amount of data, and you have to really dig to find any cool bits. Which is too bad, because there is a lot of great thinking here, and it’s information that is unquestionably relevant to the million and a half people who live here.

So in the spirit of encouragement, here are a few thoughts:

How about introducing the whole 2040 site with a fast-paced, captivating info graphic animation? Show the challenges, the contexts and the solutions proposed. Heck, SELL the idea a bit more.This is a GOOD plan made by SMART people. And it’s already been approved by almost everybody. Include a cute dog.

Demonstrate what happens to regions that grow WITHOUT a plan like this... deserted downtowns, clogged freeways… this could be us if we don’t, say, approve the Transit referendum.

Show what the plan means to individuals. In the marketing business we call this creating a profile. Describe how a student will get around in 2040. Where a senior will travel to connect with her friends. How a farm worker will live and work here.

I am sure the hard working folks at Metro Vancouver have quite a lot on their plate, but I hope they can bring more of the Metro 2040 plan to the public with the impact it deserves.

Because it doesn’t matter how GOOD your plan is if no one knows it’s there.

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