FVC Perspectives: May

A bus driver's insight into regional transit, and your thoughts on political parties

This story first appeared in the May 23, 2024, edition of the Fraser Valley Current newsletter. Subscribe for free to get Fraser Valley news in your email every weekday morning.

The Fraser Valley Express is so underfunded and overcrowded, it’s a miracle anyone voluntarily chooses to ride it. That’s the opinion of a bus rider—and driver.

For this month’s FVC Perspectives edition, we’re spotlighting the first-hand knowledge of a local bus driver and FVX rider.

The driver wrote to us following our recent story on transit expansion plans. You can find that story here. (Because he is writing about his employer, we have made the decision to allow him to remain anonymous so we can publish his thoughts without putting him at risk of repercussions.)

We also asked you about your engagement in politics outside of elections, and what could be done to make participation more welcoming. You can find the letter and those responses below.

A bus driver writes:

“Thanks for your story about transit expansion. I commented in the survey about the 66 before I had read that article.

“I wanted to share a few notes on the 66 FVX. For context, I live car-free, relying on walking/running, biking, and transit to get around (now with the occasional Uber / Lyft because transit is insufficient and taxis are difficult). I also work as a bus driver, so I should try to be careful what I say.

“I had an appointment to go to Surrey one day, and coming back, I got to Carvolth (via the 501 Translink bus) and waited for the 66. When it arrived it was full, it left about a dozen people behind. Some left and I guess found other ways home. I waited—I don't recall the exact time—probably 45 minutes for the next bus. But this bus wouldn't take me home to Chilliwack, it was one of the emergency-capacity buses BC Transit added that only runs to McCallum, so I had to get out there, and again wait for another bus to get home. It took me hours and three 66 buses to try to get to Chilliwack.

‘That's not an unusual occurrence. The 66 routinely passes people up; sometimes multiple buses in a row will leave people behind. In the afternoon, it's usually at Carvolth, but in the morning it can be at Highstreet too. The capacity is supposed to vary depending on the model of bus, according to BC Transit's Our Fleet page, but for simplicity I guess they have told the company, the capacity is 66 (which is higher than the lowest stated capacity but lower than the highest). There are automated counters on the bus, but they aren't entirely reliable, [and] it is entirely routine that buses are operating way above capacity. Over 80 people, perhaps mid-80s. And people are still being left behind with buses operating at these levels of crowding. These buses would easily fill two buses to desirable levels, the max capacity isn't the target, it's the limit, but we're well past that point.

“Waiting until January for a resolution is not acceptable. Drivers are expressing safety concerns about operating with that many people on board, as well as potential conflict with upset riders who get left behind. The company is unhappy with the situation. Yet I have heard a senior staff member at BC Transit say this is a good problem to have. He clearly hasn't tried riding this bus to get home from work or school.

“The yard capacity issue is a real challenge, but as you noted, they did buy a piece of land. Even if we don't move into the shop, we could begin using the large parking lot, it's not located far from the existing shop, and we already operate a satellite location for all our HandyDart buses and three of the FVX buses.

“Ridership between Chilliwack and locations west has also been growing, and terminating buses in Abbotsford is not a good solution. We need more service hours now, not next year. We need more mechanics to maintain the buses. I imagine that some interesting documents could turn up in a FOI request regarding capacity, ridership levels, and safety concerns, though I can't be certain.

“Another issue with 66 FVX is that BC Transit and the UFV student union has never settled their discussions for incorporating the Upass for this route, so it is not a valid fare product at this time, but many students are unaware of this. BC Transit should resolve this and negotiate including it with the student union. Many of the riders on that route are UFV students.

“The conditions on this bus are enough to drive anyone to explore every avenue they have to buy a car and to drive away ridership, but there is such a need for it that it is still grossly over capacity.”

FVC Perspectives: politics

We asked: “Are you, or have you ever been, a member of a political party?”

54%: No

46%: Yes

We then asked: “Share your perspective on the value you see or have experienced in being a member of a political party in Canada, rather than just voting. OR tell us why you think Canadian party memberships are unappealing. Or suggest your idea for how Canada's political parties and systems could better promote citizen participation outside of and beyond elections.”

(We added that we wanted to focus on political systems and culture, not the benefits or flaws of specific parties.)

We had so many submissions we couldn’t use them all, but thank you to everyone who wrote in.

Skye Richards: “I have volunteered at polling stations and gone to fundraising sessions. I have voted for a number of parties, often for strategic reason. We do not have a good system for representation as it stands. We should develop a clear system for proportional representation so that people's votes and areas of concern get address better and people feel that there is purpose in going to the ballot box.

“Currently the model has people vote for the least worst option instead of being able to vote with their conscience for the issues that are important locally and globally and have those concerns held responsibly. We need to continue to democratize our political system so that we have something more functional that respects the diversity of our communities while finding the best creative ways to move our societies forward together for mutual benefit.

“We don't get anything accomplished in ways that have a more long-term plan. We need to work on some very big issues and the fragmentation and divisive antics of our ongoing political climate will not get us through the very challenging times ahead and we don't have time for unresponsive and irresponsible decision makers and policy that is based on a flawed economic model of infinite growth on a finitely resourced planet, not to mention its systems of shared water and air that must be cared for with that global perspective.

“It is crazy and short sighted to be continuing to perpetuate local projects or inappropriate and poorly suited technologies that our kids will have to carry the burdens of just so we can have our lives less disruptive. We need to have climate action and economic revision with foresight. We need change leaders who understand the science and can mobilize the social changes effectively to protect the planet and understand the need for the rights of nature and understanding the need to have true costs connected within budget planning.”

David Bachand: “I truly believe most political parties are corrupt, self-serving and they line their pockets at the expense of the public. They don't deliver on campaign promises, they spend our hard-earned money recklessly and without our consultation, make secret backroom deals and face no repercussions. The current party system is polluted. This time I'll be voting for an independent candidate who answers to me—the voter—not a political party swayed by big businesses with deep pockets.“

Debora Soutar: “Belonging to a political party puts you in touch with people who share your values & concerns. It also is more empowering than just showing up to vote.”

Leslie Koole: “Opportunity to know your elected officials better. Sometimes choosing the candidate is actually more important because in some cases the actual election will be party-based and if you are supporting the stronger party in your riding, when you choose the candidate you may in effect be choosing the next MP or MLA.

“Campaigning is a great way to engage with your neighbours and hear what others are concerned about. I thoroughly enjoy some of the conversations I have while door-knocking.“

Levi Minderhoud: “Being a member of a political party opens up a whole new range of ways to be involved in the democratic process. You can vote for the various nominees running to be the next candidate of that political party. You can attend and vote at policy conventions. You can vote for any new leader of they party. And you can vote, depending on the party, for some of the executive positions within the party. Voting during general elections is like democratic beginner mode. Being an active member of a political party is advanced democratic mode.”

C Blakemore: “While party membership kept me somewhat more informed, the bulk of the emails I received as a result were a request to support the party financially.“

Marion Robinson: “Back when I wanted to specifically have my views heard within the party, I took out the membership. My mentors were Canada's big band leader, Mart Kenny from Mission and Her Honour Iona Campagnolo. Iona shared a lot about being a woman in a male-dominated world. (so much to say here about her wisdoms) I wanted the federal Liberals to work more closely with the federal NDPs. Now they do.

“National Chief Shawn Atleo would present on relationally - how we relate to each other and the ground we walk on. (more on this if you want).”

Luanne Yellowfly: “Our current political system is elitist and not truly avail to the common person. It is the playground of lawyers, where ordinary people do not really fit in. It is a cut-throat arena, controlled by large corporate interest groups. I don’t have a corporation and the interests of big money are not my interests. And even when politicians pretend they are listening and promise to do things for the good of the people, these things rarely ever materialize in the real world. So it’s useless to participate … a waste of time , with a lot of nasty, self-interested people seeking power over others. They don’t care about the social good in our society!“

Eryne Croquet: “I joined because I was a regular donor and wanted to understand how policy gets developed. I don't spend much time or effort on it though.

“I think people need to be encouraged to interact with their elected officials. Write them letters, emails, ask for face to face meetings. It's through those lines of communication that the elected people can understand what we need and want from government. And also send them genuine gratitude messages because they get a lot of anger and vitriol. Democracy works best when people engage with the elected officials, I think. “

Mike Olson: “For me, I feel joining a political party is a limiting move as a voter. I do not see the reason should I join a party where policies and platforms differ over elections. I want to base my decision on the platform of the day and not feel obligated to vote for a specific party.”

Dave Stephen: “I would say the philosophy of political parties have had the greatest influence on my membership in, and support of, those parties. However, there have been times...elections...where my support was more issue-focused. But I do think our democracy has become lesser. Frayed. Unappealing. Resulting in a lower participation. I now think the only real hope to return to a truer representative system is a change in the electoral system we have in Canada for federal and provincial elections (currently known as 'first past the post'.) To me, some kind of proportional representation would be much more representative of citizen support. (I am sad that a recent vote to create a Citizen's Assembly to review our federal electoral system failed to get enough support in Parliament. ....Sigh...)”

Sheila: “Do not strongly identify with any one party, so every election is a brand new event and seen with new eyes. I suppose if one party was totally going off the rails in candidate choices, I would feel more obliged to try to influence the candidate choice a little further upstream. BC politics is getting close. Alberta politics suffers from this right now.“

Mark: “The idea is that one can help shape party policy, however, unless one's vision aligns with that of the party, there is no way to make change. All parties are now beholden to the vocal minority. The majority is no longer a compelling ideal, and evokes comparisons to racism and colonialism.”

Kathy: “To be honest, I really don’t know much about our political system. I am a Canadian, and most of my information comes from the news, and usually that is if something exciting is happening. I would like to start informing myself from the bottom. Who runs my city? Who represents me in government? Who and where do I send my concerns to? I’m rather embarrassed that I don’t know these things.”

Dwain: “I purchased a membership once and was hounded for donations constantly. Politics are hyper-divisive, so I cannot afford to be identified as right or left in my business.”

Chris: “I was a party member when I was too young to know any better.

“Now, to better engage citizens, we need more (legitimate) political parties who are not so similar and get closer to actually representing diverse views about our systems. “

Cory: “Important to participate in all aspects of the political process and it is fun to hang and work with like-minded people.”

David: “I believe in financially supporting the party that represents my views, but I do wish they would just let me donate without constantly asking for more.”

Julia: “I am a board member of a local riding organization as well. I think political parties send way too many donation request emails (I get them almost daily) and not enough info about how to be involved. I only learned about the local association by word-of-mouth. Being involved at the local level is fun and feels important however the disconnect with the national party ruins it for most people. “

Brian: “I have been a member of a Federal party but that was just because I believed in a particular candidate at the time. I have bottled at one time of another for every major political party in Canada and in more than one Province. I believe any party’s political agenda differs from their promises a great deal. The real movers and shakers that support political parties have their own agendas and those are implemented via the grease of the dollars spent to get a politician elected. Favours are owed and collected upon, no matter what the party promised during its campaign. Block voting within major parties is enforced via rewards and punishment for not voting along the political lines. This goes for every party. The average member of a party has no sway.”

Robin Woolmer: “I haven't been a member of a political party because my alliances shift. However I've been thinking of getting involved with my local candidate for MLA because I really like the job that they are doing.”


or to participate.