Why Generation X is voting yes in the transit referendum

Julie Maclellan

For today's musings, I present to you these seemingly unrelated quotes.


article continues below

"I carried a watermelon."


"Do you support a new 0.5 per cent Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax, to be dedicated to the Mayors' Transportation and Transit Plan?"


I offer these up to posit my thesis: If you understand the first reference, you're likely to vote Yes to the second.

Yes, you read it here first: Generation X is going to vote Yes in the transit referendum.

Why am I predicting this so confidently? you ask.

Well, the truth is, as a member of Generation X myself, I've been doing a lot of thinking about this transit referendum (or plebiscite, if the pedants insist), and I find myself coming up with all sorts of reasons why people of my age and my station in life are going to find themselves drawn to the Yes vote.

No, it's not all that simple - there are also a whole host of compelling arguments on the No side - and I don't pretend to speak for an entire generation. (No, scratch that. I am speaking for an entire generation. Because I'm Gen X, and that's what we do.)

In any case, broadly speaking, there are a number of reasons why the Yes side may want to court Gen Xers if they want to win this vote.

Here are some things you should know about Gen Xers that make us perfect fodder for the Yes side:

First, we've gotten over ourselves. Mostly, anyway. We get that we're not always the ones who win, and that just because we want or need something doesn't mean that we're going to get it. Sure, we'd like a way better TransLink than the one we've got - a more accountable, less apparently out-of-touch-with-reality one - and, even more, we'd really like it if Christy Clark had just lived up to the responsibilities of the premier's office and properly funded transit and transportation in the first place. We roll our eyes about the fact that this whole thing is even going to a referendum - seriously, who on earth would entrust a plan so absolutely integral to the future of our region to the whims of a popular vote? - but we sigh and accept that what we have is what we've got and we're just gonna have to make the best of it.

Plus, we're realists. Not the pseudo-cynics we tried to be back in our oh-so-tired-and-jaded twenties, but actual pragmatic, commonsensical grown-ups. We've long since figured out that reality bites and that sometimes all we can hope for is to find someone who says bless you when we sneeze. And we're cool with that. We know that there's no such thing as perfection, that the system is broken (thanks a lot, baby boomers) and that the planet is heading downhill rapidly (thanks again, baby boomers). But we've gotten over being bitter about that (mostly, anyway) and we've just decided to make do with what we have. And what we have, right now, is a chance to vote on what is actually a pretty impressive transit and transportation plan that does its best to satisfy the needs of everyone living in the Lower Mainland - from transit-dependent millennials to minivan-driving Gen Xers like ourselves to boomers in their luxury cars and the once-again-transit-dependent Silent Generation (who are, in many cases, our own parents).

Which brings me to another reason we're voting Yes: We're caretakers. We are no longer living side-by-side with other angst-filled singles in our walkup apartments, hanging out at the coffee shop lamenting the state of the planet and our love lives. We own houses and mow lawns and have kids in school - and, in many cases, we have parents who are aging and who will soon need more help from us, too. Whether we want to be or not, we're no longer the centre of our own universes. Which means we can look beyond the "what will this do for my drive to work?" question and consider the greater good of the region when we cast our vote.

Now, let's be honest here. I don't mean to make out that Gen X is voting Yes simply because it will be good for everyone else. We're not being utterly magnanimous about it.

The truth is, we still like to fancy ourselves as mavericks, outside the societal lines that previous generations drew for us, despite the reality of the fact that we've become rather establishment. We're Ferris Bueller in a suit and tie, turning up every day for his middle management job. We're Baby and Johnny all grown up and married, driving the kids to soccer practice and ballet class in a Toyota minivan.

Which means the Yes vote really suits us on both counts. With so much vocal public opposition to the tax hike, voting Yes and proudly proclaiming it from the rooftops (or the blogosphere, as the case may be) has become a new form of social rebellion for the middle-aged. At the same time, a Yes vote also supports social order and the greater good and a vision for the future of the region - not, perhaps, the rosy-pink vision of our idealistic youth, but a sensible, logical, orderly vision that we can get behind with the confidence that comes from owning homes, tucking money away into RRSPs, saving for our children's college education and, yes, driving minivans.

But the single, most fundamental reason why Gen X is voting Yes?

We're voting Yes because, underneath all the rest of it - that maverick-cynic-caretaker persona we've come to assume over the past couple of decades - we're actually still suckers for a happy ending.

We still believe that Andie and Blane will find love (although, being that we like to root for the underdog, we still love Duckie too). We still believe in a world where, at least on occasion, the jocks and nerds and rebels and princesses and emo basket-cases can find common ground over breakfast (or in a SkyTrain car, as the case may be).  We still believe Ren McCormack will be able to bring dancing back to Bomont.

And most of all, we absolutely, positively, indisputably believe there's no way Baby's gonna sit in that corner when Johnny Castle comes back to dance.

The truth is, we find happy endings satisfying. Which means a Yes vote and all it entails - shiny new SkyTrain cars, light rail, more buses, a new Pattullo Bridge, more HandyDart, shorter commutes and generally happier, healthier humans - appeals to our inner romantic.

All that having been said, there's one big caveat here.

For all our good points - and let's face it, they are abundant - us Gen Xers have a big weakness. We're occasionally just an itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny, eency-weency bit unreliable. We're overprogrammed, overbusy and overburdened with the minutiae of daily life. Which means our ballot package is likely to get lost on the kitchen table in that pile of school trip permission slips, summer camp registration forms, insurance payment reminders and credit card bills that we never quite seem to get to the bottom of.

We mean well, and we certainly intend to vote Yes. But the thing is, we have to find that damn ballot package to fill it out and mail it back in and, well, where are Ethan's soccer shoes and where did Claire put her science project and where the heck was that grocery list anyway?

I have faith in us, though. I think for something this important, this big and fundamental to our existence, we can come through.

Because, let's face it, the mayors' council's transit and transportation plan is no Patrick Swayze - but in its own way, it's actually kinda sexy.

Let's just hope that we remember to put down our watermelons and join the dancing before it's too late.


Julie MacLellan is a reporter and assistant editor with the Burnaby NOW and Record newspapers, mother of a toddler, and an incurable member of Generation X.

Read Related Topics

© Burnaby Now


NOTE: To post a comment you must have an account with at least one of the following services: Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ You may then login using your account credentials for that service. If you do not already have an account you may register a new profile with Disqus by first clicking the "Post as" button and then the link: "Don't have one? Register a new profile".

Please keep your comments, clean, civil and respectful. Comments deemed inappropriate or libelous will be removed. The Burnaby NOW makes no guarantee of comments’ factual accuracy.

The Burnaby Now welcomes your opinions and comments. We do not allow personal attacks, offensive language or unsubstantiated allegations. We reserve the right to edit comments for length, style, legality and taste and reproduce them in print, electronic or otherwise. For further information, please contact the editor or publisher, or see our Terms and Conditions.

comments powered by Disqus

Popular Burnaby Now

Community Events Calendar