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Voices in favour : a study of support for a third crossing of Burrard Inlet Johnson, Melissa Christine

Abstract

Planning theorists often espouse the value of citizen participation and the sharing of ideas and opinions in planning processes, and encourage collaborative discussions between professionals and the public. On the issue of sustainability planning, there can be many differing beliefs and opinions within society. In order to construct meaningful dialogue around sustainability goals, it is important for planners to understand the diverse opinions of the public. This thesis examines the belief systems of people who support the idea of building a "third crossing" of Vancouver's Burrard Inlet, looking to draw conclusions that could be useful in planning for similar transportation infrastructure projects. I interviewed nine third crossing supporters using two theories from psychology and social psychology, Leon Festinger's notion of cognitive dissonance and Daniel Yankelovich's definitions of mass opinion and public judgment, to identify conflict within beliefs and evaluate the quality of opinion. I discovered that cognitive dissonance, or conflict between an individual's beliefs, was not reflected significantly in the views of crossing supporters. They also exhibited high quality opinion, as defined by Yankelovich using his criteria of responsibility, stability and consistency. Further, in comparing the interview responses to transportation policies contained in the Greater Vancouver Regional District's Livable Region Strategic Plan, I determined that two conflicting visions, which I refer to as the mobility vision and the sustainability/livability vision, lie at the heart of this transportation debate and likely others with similar foundations. With the knowledge that crossing advocates have a well-developed and logically constructed vision, planners must think about ways to establish constructive dialogue and address the fundamental values and assumptions upon which the two visions are based in order to foster social learning on the issue of sustainability-oriented transportation.

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