As you may know, we’ve launched the next phase of our public consultation on the UBC Line, or rapid transit along the Broadway corridor in Vancouver. (We’re also running a parallel study on Surrey rapid transit!)
Check out this post for more details on the whole consultation—we’ve opened up our online discussion boards, launched a website section about the rapid transit alternatives, and we have five in-person meetings are also planned for the coming weeks.
For some background on the whole consultation endeavour, I asked Amelia Shaw, TransLink’s manager of public consultation, to tell us about the process for UBC and Surrey rapid transit.
Amelia’s team runs ongoing public consultations for our policies, plans, and more, as well as joining in on TransLink’s behalf at community events.
It’s an important role: as she says, “TransLink is here because of the communities and people that we serve. We need to be reflecting that and we do that in a variety of ways: through the public consultation and also our community relations, so people get that hands-on experience of who we are, and conversely, we learn about them and their needs and wants.”
OK, now here’s a talk with Amelia!
Tell me about the UBC Line consultation and why we’re doing it.
When we do public consultation, it’s for us to learn from those individuals that are going to be impacted by this one way or another: whether they’re going to be a user of the system, whether they live in the area where we’re looking at putting the line, or whether they’re a taxpayer and contributing to it.
We want to make sure that people have had an opportunity to really engage and assist us in learning about what’s important to them. In doing that, it’s also really critical to make sure that we provide information so that they can make an informed decision, choice, or response to us. But no one knows their area better than the people that are going to live there, or who are going to use it.
Can you talk about how this consultation is structured? What’s the IAP2 and how are they involved?
IAP2 is the International Association of Public Participation, and what they’ve done is create a spectrum of involvement. When we look at anything that we do—whether a policy, plan or project—we try to identify where we’re at on that spectrum. And that goes anywhere from “Inform” to “Empower,” and then there’s a variety of stops along the way.
(Here’s a link to the spectrum )
For each project and plan and policy, we look at how they would change based on going out to speak to the public. If we come away seeing the public is really going to have a lot to say on this, then our process actually might be at the “Collaborate” level, which is just under “Empower.”
Just to give you an example, what we did with the 10 year plan was that we stopped at “Collaborate.” And what collaborate means is that we really wanted you to be part of this discussion, and we wanted you to really understand what was going on, and you could tell us what was important to you. We needed to hear what you thought was important for a transportation system and discern how you wanted us to pay for it. We couldn’t give the final decision to the public and the participants in this process, but all of the comments and feedback, including online and offline responses to the It’s Your Move game, was provided as advice to the mayors’ council and our executive team. That was very involved, and people spent a lot of time both online and offline really getting to know what it was all about.
With UBC and Surrey, the studies are at the “Collaborate” level. What we heard in the Vancouver and Surrey area transit plans was that rapid transit was important to those communities.
And now we’re asking, where are we going to be putting that rapid transit line? What technology should we consider? Are we going to use what’s important to you in our delivery? Because you are the users and you are also the funders of what we subsequently do. How much change is possible is the result of the interaction we have with our participants in this process.
We’re heading into the second phase of the UBC consultation. What happened in the first phase?
For UBC and Surrey, we started off knowing quite a bit, but there were still so many areas that we weren’t sure about. What was people’s experience in their communities? What did they value? What did they want to see? What was the problem? We often come in with an expectation of knowing what the problem is, but sometimes it’s much broader than we anticipated, or much smaller. The public often presumes we know a lot more than we do.
So we started on an educational adventure for ourselves for phase one of the public consultation in UBC and Surrey. The stakeholder consultation with UBC started almost a year ago now, in the summer of 2009, and the stakeholder process for Surrey kickstarted right after the Olympics and is still ongoing — phase 2 for Surrey will begin in the fall.
We reached out to stakeholders, and that’s because stakeholders are very concerned about now, but they also think about 10, 20, 30 years out. Our stakeholders often represent very big groups, like the transportation sector, business groups or community associations. Quite often they’re bringing the opinion of their constituents forward, and they’re prepared to spend time with us, helping us understand that baseline knowledge. We won’t have made any decisions, but we will know what areas to speak knowledgeably on with the general public.
So with phase two of the public consultations, we go out to a wider audience, the entire public. And as we come out with the UBC Line consultation, we have worked with our stakeholders to take it from almost 200 alternatives and options to just 6, so people can focus their energy on what they like, and don’t like, and more. We want to know what other information you need about these alternatives too. This is all about making sure you have the info you need to make an informed decision, and then providing you with an opportunity to tell us your thoughts. What’s important to you helps drive which alternatives we bring forward.
Are there any principles that guide this process?
We have principles for public consultation and community engagement and we stay true to those and that’s actually quite important from our perspective. Anyone can call us on that. Quite often, we create principles for projects if they’re big, so there are a set of principles for both the UBC study and the Surrey study.
Is there anything more you’d like to add about the UBC Line consultation?
We always ask people to ask questions. So come to the table, ask the questions. We’re pretty good at responding where we can. We also ask people to be patient with us, because we won’t always get it right but we are here to learn and to listen and hopefully provide you with the answers that you want. But most importantly, participate. Really, we need to hear from you about what’s important. We are facilitators of a process. But it’s only the people who come to the table who will help us shape the final outcome.
Remember, you can get involved with the UBC Line consultation by visiting BePartofthePlan.ca: learn about the alternatives, find out the dates of our five in-person workshops, do a questionnaire or visit our online discussion boards.