COLUMN: End of the line for TransLink

Proof that TransLink is hopelessly broken came last week, when it was learned there would be no stops in Surrey for a new express bus travelling between Langley and the SkyTrain system.

The news of this omission wasn’t given to Surrey council or publicized at a opening ceremony on Nov. 17 of the new Carvolth park-and-ride lot in Langley, attended by federal, provincial and municipal officials, as well as TransLink officials.

This kind of underhanded, deceitful mistreatment of what will one day be B.C.’s largest city is shabby and unbecoming of all levels of government. TransLink and the provincial government should hang their heads in shame.

Mayor Dianne Watts was predictably unhappy, although she showed remarkable restraint, given the way the city was treated.

She, as well as anyone in Surrey who uses the transit system,  knows TransLink’s shortcomings all too well.

Let’s put this in perspective – which is necessary, given an upcoming provincial election, and the start of tolling on Dec. 8.

When the Port Mann Bridge and highway-improvement project was announced in 2007, to considerable criticism in the established areas of the Lower Mainland like Burnaby and Vancouver, it was repeatedly promised that transit would return to the bridge and there would be an express bus between Langley and the Lougheed SkyTrain station.

This of course would encourage transit use, reduce the  number of cars on the bridge and give people an alternative to the tolls that were announced right up front.

Since that time, an economic recession has descended on us, and it shows no signs of lifting.

The private-sector partner that was to build and operate the bridge couldn’t be found, so the province took on the task itself. It is a project that was long overdue and was (and is) appreciated by most South Fraser residents.

Tolls that wouldn’t have caused so much fuss in a time of prosperity don’t sound too good to many people today.

The province has, to its credit, come up with an innovative marketing approach, offering 20 free trips for those who sign up by this Friday, lower tolls the first year and monthly passes for those who use the bridge a large number of times each month.

However, the province has not addressed the chronic underfunding of TransLink and, in particular, the need to expand services on this side of the river.

Thus the lack of a bus stop in Surrey for the new 555 bus service.

A bus stop at the 156 Street on- and off-ramps could easily be set up, as transit-advocate Daryl Dela Cruz has pointed out on his SkyTrain for Surrey website. Details of his plan can be seen at skytrainforsurrey.org

However, common-sense solutions seem to evade TransLink.

The transit authority continues to claim that Surrey and a private developer were going to establish a transit exchange at 156 Street, but the project fell through.

Perhaps the above-noted recession had something to do with that.

TransLink has continually shown a deafness to legitimate transit needs in Surrey and other parts of the South Fraser. It seems foolish to continue to be part of such a dysfunctional organization.

Surrey, White Rock, the two Langleys and Delta would be further ahead in setting up their own transit-governance system, and then negotiating on cross-border services with a truncated TransLink.

We need transit solutions that fit the needs of this fast-growing area. We don’t need more excuses.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

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