The B-Line fiasco has brought to a head a simmering debate that even divides environmentalists. Do we need to force people out of their cars to save the planet from climate change or is there another way? As a former Director and one time president of SPEC (Society Promoting Environmental Conservation), I took what became the minority position. I believed the best way to prevent climate change was for government to set a deadline to require all passenger vehicles sold after a certain date to be powered by electric. In the early 2000’s I argued for that date to be 2016 because projections were that battery technology would be ready by then. In hindsight I was right. If governments had required a full conversion by 2016, the technology would have evolved even faster.
Those arguments however did not get much airplay because many more environmentalists were in the camp that didn’t want cars at all. They wanted to force the public out of their cars whether they lived in suburbs or not. Behind closed doors I was outnumbered by those objections that electric vehicles would only save the car and that wasn’t wanted. Climate change was a perfect excuse to push an anti-car agenda and that view has prevailed since. It is even being taught in our schools and universities.
The problem with that view is that it would take generations to rebuild our suburbs around transit and we just don’t have the time. The strategy of creating congested traffic to force people out of cars just burns more gas as people idle for an extra hour on their daily commute. Most suburbs simply can’t function without the automobile so this approach has no chance of success unless those suburbs can be entirely rebuilt. The alternative way will solve the climate change problem much quicker by forcing Big Auto to switch over to electric as soon as possible.
When it comes to the North Shore, here are the numbers that matter when people have many diverse places to travel. It takes me eight minutes to drive from West Vancouver to visit my grandkids in North Van. It would take 1 hour 35 minutes to get there by bus assuming schedules and connections are on time. With the B-line that number wouldn’t change. It takes me 20 to 30 minutes to get to work in Burnaby in the morning, depending on traffic. It would take 1 hour 40 minutes even with Sky Train on part of the route (25 minutes would be walking time).
It takes me four minutes to drive from my house to my favorite trailhead for hiking. It would take at least 1 hour 20 minutes to get there by bus. Driving from any point in West Vancouver to any other point (including most of North Van) can be measured in minutes and in total less than 20 minutes (unless you have to go down the Cut) whereas by bus it is either not possible at all or measured in hours for most point-to-point travel unless you are close or are going on a well-serviced corridor, like the bus downtown.
In short, the people who want to force you out of your car to take the bus want to add at least two hours to most round-trip travel destinations. They want to throw away the most efficient form of travel in this suburb-based community on the false promise that it is necessary to save the climate when there is a better solution that saves the car and the climate as well.
Once electric cars have the full benefit of mass production, they will be cheaper than gas burners because they have far less moving parts and take 30 per cent less labour to produce (which apparently has upset the German unions). Battery swap systems will solve the problem of long charge times. Drive into a battery station and swap your battery for a fresh one in the same time it takes to fill a tank with gas. Unless we make that switch now, the people trying to force us out of cars and on to buses will share responsibility for climate failure by pushing for a strategy doomed to fail. The big lie is that that B-Line will save the planet. The truth is it will do no such thing. It will only distract us from the one solution that will work in time.