Thursday, June 2, 2011

Delegation afterthoughts

Prepping the delegation speech for last night didn't take a lot of time-- I write quickly and can serialize my thoughts well when I sit down and do it, thanks to years of LiveJournal use-- but it occupied a lot of my "writing energy", whatever sump from which I draw the motivation to state my opinion. So since registering as a delegate, I haven't touched this blog.

And there's a big difference between hammering out a first draft and delivering a polished final version. That part took substantially longer. I even ended up writing a second speech with a different focus, and then tossing (most) of it out when I read it through from top to bottom and realized that while on the surface it said what I wanted to, it "flickered" on its way from start to finish. Vital links were missing.

It probably didn't help that when I wrote that draft, we were on our way through a second bottle of wine. I think I found the point at which I couldn't hang a sensible argument together anymore, and the frustration sent me away for another glass and to enjoy the last light of that glorious evening to watch urban bats out on the deck with Erin.

Most challenging of all, however, was dealing with the fact that I had a tremendous amount I wanted to say, but a personal mandate here to try and deliver a message that was unique. Council would hear a reiteration of staff facts, figures and conclusions from other supporters. The disconnect, as I saw it, was between dry facts and visceral instinctive understanding. What does the effect of transit improvement on lifestyle change look like at a personal level?

And that's where I felt that I could contribute. iXpress on its own isn't going to have the broad transformative effect we need, but it has affected some, and Erin and I are among them. And that's where having an archive of six years' worth of LiveJournal was extremely helpful: I have posts written about my perspectives and experiences going through that phase of transit adoption.

Still, there were things that I had to cut out of that story. For all that iXpress serves as a proof of concept for a higher order transit line, I wanted to talk more about its limitations:

1. iXpress, as a bus service, doesn't register on our radar. It did not prevent my workplace from moving from its old location on Parkside and Weber to where it now resides out at Northfield and Bridge. (This move partly precipitated Erin and I to relocate so that I could access a different bus to reach it.)

Even though there was some transit use at the old location, our office did not deem access to iXpress to be different than access to the wandering neighbourhood slow bus that is the 35. And we gave up on what would be a fabulous location in an LRT world.

2. I no longer take iXpress, even though I could. I frequently opt for a 35 to 7 connection at Conestoga Mall but never a 35 to iXpress connection. The reason is that iXpress isn't so quick anymore, because it has tremendously long loading times around the universities. It also remains absolutely cheek-to-jowl past Grand River Hospital. I can sit safely ensconced by a window for that trip, but disembarking is a difficult and annoying and elbow-inhaling and knapsack-dodging affair.

iXpress definitely has more headroom available to it, as it is only now moving from 15 to 10 minute headways, and could reasonably double its capacity one more time. The key thing is, though, that its capacity end is already in sight-- not helpful for long term planning. And my experience would be echoed by others. A crowded bus is not a transit attractor.

I felt that these were important points to make to Council but I just couldn't make them fit without breaking the flow. So I decided to stay focused on the story of how I got to where I am, and accept that I wouldn't get to say everything I wanted. And from the commentary I've heard since, it sounds like I made a strong point. Certainly the Record borrowed from my speech this morning, and the twitter pundit feedback was very positive. Of course, with the latter comes the warning about preaching to the converted...

It was a tremendous experience, though. A decade on stage gave me the confidence and my voice, years of workplace idea evangelism gave me the words, but I was still a bundle of nerves and freezing cold from the stress response (and, as well, the overactive air conditioning) until I was done.

And then, there was beer.

1 comment:

  1. It was definitely cold in the council chambers. I brought more clothes the second day, so it didn't feel as cold, and the lack of stress response also helps.

    There are definitely always more things to say, but it's important to stay on-point, and your transcript (I wasn't there for your actual talk) does that.

    For me, a lot of the polishing effort went with preparing my slides. It doesn't take long to prepare crappy slides full of bullets, but it does take a lot of time to prepare minimalist slides. (see PDF). I never actually prepared a full written text, but practiced it a couple of times.