VOTE Socialist has a bold vision for parks in the City of Vancouver.
The electoral organization is fielding candidates for council, park board, and school board in the October 15, 2022 municipal election.
As part of its overall platform, the party seeks to “reimagine city parks as a nexus of settler-Indigenous restitution, community-building, climate action, food security, and cultural innovation”.
Like all plans, this involves a number of components.
One of these is VOTE Socialist’s proposal to have a free bus service in Stanley Park, the 400-hectare jewel and pride of the city.
Andrea Pinochet-Escudero is running as the party’s candidate for park board, and she explains the idea behind this.
“We’re interested in making parks more accesible to low-income residents and families, so having a free shuttle would help people take the bus like the Number 19 to Stanley Park and access the park,” Pinochet-Escudero told the Straight in a phone interview.
The Number 19 stops at the park’s bus loop, but doesn’t go around.
Many would still perhaps remember the Number 52, a seasonal bus service operated by the then B.C. Transit, which took riders around the park.
It was called 52 Around the Park, but it was discontinued sometime in the 1990s.
B.C. Transit’s successor TransLink has declined a previous proposal to bring back a new version of the old Number 52.
In its platform, VOTE Socialist explains what it has in mind.
“Run a free, scheduled circulator bus route around Stanley Park, stopping at major attractions and points of interest and connecting to existing TransLink services, at minimum during peak summer months,” the party stated.
In the interview, Pinochet-Escudero suggested that the City of Vancouver can operate a free bus service around Stanley Park.
“We have to be creative and put new things on the table when TransLink says ‘no’,” she said.
“I think we need to use our imagination,” the mother of two added.
The Straight sought transit expert Nathan Davidowicz for comment, and he thinks this is a great idea.
Davidowicz estimated that it costs about $100 per hour to operate a bus.
In order to provide a minimum of half-hour service, he said that this would involve having two buses.
Assuming an eight-hour shift each, the cost of running the two buses on weekends would be only $3,200.
Davidowicz also said that the free bus can run for three to five months per year.
“The cost is worth it,” Davidowicz said.
He recalled that the Number 52 “used to be packed full”.
Davidowicz also argued that TransLink has “no priorities for the city of Vancouver”.
He cited as example TransLink’s new bus service to Lynn Canyon in North Vancouver.
The Number 226 started in April 2022, and it operates in the said North Shore area on weekends.
“We need a proper plan to transport riders from Downtown to Stanley Park as well as around Stanley Park,” Davidowicz said.
Speaking about free weekend bus rides, there is one in Richmond.
The Richmond Discovery Shuttle launched as a free bus service on June 25, 2022.
The shuttle operates from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekends and statutory holidays. It runs until September 5, 2022.
It runs a loop with five stops between central Richmond, the Richmond Olympic Oval, and Steveston Village: Lansdowne Canada Line station, Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel, Richmond Olympic Oval, Gulf of Georgia Cannery, and Britannia Shipyard.
The Richmond Discovery Shuttle is a partnership between Tourism Richmond, City of Richmond, and Richmond Hotel Association.
The service is operated by Universal Coach Lines, a Richmond company.
VOTE Socialist’s Pinochet-Escudero noted in the interview that many people don’t have cars and bikes, so going around Stanley Park is challenging.
“It would also discourage people from driving if there was a shuttle,” Pinochet-Escudero said.
The VOTE Socialist candidate for park board added that fewer cars not only free up space, but it’s also good for the environment.