February 2012 edition

Re: Derailed, January 2012

I’m extremely happy that Ross Crockford and others worked to get real informed debate happening over the Johnson Street bridge. But if he’s impressed with the Dallas Trinity diesel commuter rail line’s weekday ridership of 9800, maybe he’d like my collection of wind-up toys.

The Dallas Fort Worth metro area is the fourth-biggest city in the US, with about 6.4 million people. Trinity ridership represents a whopping 0.0015 percent of the city’s people. By contrast, Calgary has 1,240,000 people and the C-Train tram network carries 252,600 weekday passengers, or more than one Calgarian in five.

It’s a gigantic loss that Victoria lost its rail link into downtown; the province seems oblivious. The solar system revolves, as we know, around the mainland.

As a commuter line, there’s not a heck of a lot along the E&N, with the major exception of the Dockyard. The Douglas St./Galloping Goose corridor, by contrast, links a huge number of businesses, Victoria General Hospital, and allows connections to Saanich, UVic, the Camosun Interurban campus and beyond.

The hyper-politically connected SNC/Lavalin came up with a lofty cost estimate of nearly a billion bucks for LRT here. Meanwhile, I’d never heard of this dinky French city called Besançon. No wonder; it only has 220,000 people. They’re building a 14.5 km tramway, nearly as long as a Western Communities line, for $310 million. Tabarnaque! They say red wine clears the arteries. It may also cut flab off rail transit construction estimates.

Louis Guilbault


Ross Crockford replies: I agree, the $950-million LRT is grossly overpriced. My doubt is that the feds and province could be persuaded to cough up even for a $300-million, Besançon-type tramline. (Just think of where that might lead: soon comparable cities like Hamilton, Winnipeg, St Catherine’s, Halifax, etc. would all demand tram systems too!) On the other hand, a $30-million commuter rail line is something the region could realistically tackle, without having to wait for big handouts from upper levels of government. It would also help revive the E&N, and the prospect of train service on all of Vancouver Island.


Re: LRT = tail wagging the dog

Bus rapid transit should take the lead in Victoria’s transportation plan. While a long list of Canadian cities have made or plan to make significant investments in buses, Victoria’s big transit push has steered toward something less attractive and decidedly more expensive: LRT—Light Rail Transit.

At a time of economic challenges for all levels of government, buses, with advanced technology, seem to be the answer: the new engine designs are more efficient and more versatile; buses can detour around obstructions, and more can be readily added to handle increased ridership during peak times.

The city should stick to tires, as the infrastructure is already in place. A fraction of the LRT’s billion-dollar price tag subsidizes a whole lot of bus passes, to entice drivers out of their cars.

William Perry


Re: At the tipping point, January 2012

When Chief Atleo spoke so beautifully at Jack Layton’s funeral, my first thought was: He should be Prime Minister. Katherine Gordon’s article provides even more reasons why.

Helene Harrison


Re: Breaking news on the yellow brick road to calamity, Dec 2011

I wanted to send my appreciation and admiration for the work Rob Wipond and Focus do to help keep your readers awake and informed. The ethics of journalism must be very challenging when you are a passionate member of the community, as I think you are, and you are trying to do good journalism and not get involved actively. For me, it shows you are inspired by what you are writing about. I have pretty much read every Focus edition since I moved to Victoria in 1996. In my opinion we need more of this kind of sincere journalism rather than the mainstream media such as the Times Colonist, Globe and Mail, etc. Personally I do not consider them a reliable enough source of truth or news to bother purchasing them. Keep up the good work.

Dennis J. Murphy


On behalf of alternative local news media, Rob Wipond asks the readers of Focus to give their consent to his intertwining of professional journalism and community activism. Is this a kind of market research that Wipond can present to the publisher of Focus, who in turn can present to the businesses that advertise in the magazine? Focus is a free publication entirely dependent on advertising revenue. Unless it changes into a for-sale publication that generates more than a nominal income from readers, Wipond’s ambition to develop the magazine into a viable and reliable voice for social change lives and dies on the political opinions of the magazine’s commercial underwriters. Wipond parenthetically observes this fact himself in discussing “local news outlets engaged in suppressing content and firing journalists at the behest of advertisers,” (my emphasis) as exposed in Sean Holman’s now-defunct Public Eye. Personally, I have been genuinely impressed by the investigative reporting and editorial commentaries in the last few issues of Focus. I would take out a subscription to the magazine should the publisher ever solicit his readers to do so. In short, to Wipond I give my consent and to David Broadland I am willing to give some cents.

Ben Livant


Editor’s note: Thanks Ben. To Ben and others: please do subscribe. It will definitely help Focus fund more investigative journalism. $30 for 11 editions/year. By the way, those small businesses who advertise with Focus tend to do so because we don’t shy away from serious consideration of regional issues and as a result have engaged, critical-thinking readers.


Re: City Hall priorities, Dec 2011

Further to a letter in the December issue, I was struck by the distinction made between the City’s perceived wants and needs. When I consider again the really necessary work—sewage, fire station, affordable housing, underground infrastructure, Crystal Pool (what did I miss?)—that must have primary claim on our taxes, I am again offended at the priority given to the Johnson Street Bridge. In the context of needs, I would classify it as a vanity project.

I wonder if the new council would be so eager to warp those priorities.

Roger W. Smeeth