Business groups urge ‘yes’ vote at transit forum

Small crowd gathers in South Surrey to discuss transportation plebiscite.

A small crowd listens to White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin discuss the transportation plebiscite at an information forum hosted by the 'yes' side in South Surrey Wednesday.

A small crowd listens to White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin discuss the transportation plebiscite at an information forum hosted by the 'yes' side in South Surrey Wednesday.

Despite a small crowd at this week’s transit and transportation forum in South Surrey, organizers of the ‘yes’ side’s town-hall series say they are pleased with the turnout and response to the event.

Fewer than 20 people were in attendance at the start of the plebiscite forum at the Rotary Fieldhouse Wednesday afternoon.

Organized by the Surrey Board of Trade and the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce, speakers included White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin, Surrey city staffer Don Buchanan and Elizabeth Model, CEO of the Downtown Surrey BIA.

Model told Peace Arch News the next day that by the meeting’s end she estimated 30 to 40 people were present and described attendees as “very engaged and interested” in hearing about the plan by the mayors’ council on regional transportation, and the proposed 0.5 per cent tax increase required to fund it.

“I was quite impressed at the level of knowledge of the people who attended,” Model, a founding member of the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition, said. “There were some great questions.”

Among concerns Model heard about the transportation and transit referendum was regarding inadequate service to White Rock and South Surrey, as well as the lack of faith in TransLink as a governing body.

While Model noted TransLink isn’t on the ballot, she said she understands where the public negativity with respect to TransLink comes from.

“I completely agree with a lot of people who say they’ve had their issues,” she said, noting TransLink’s communications with the public have been lacking in the past. “But one of the things that TransLink has not done is celebrate their successes.”

Model pointed to the Canada Line surpassing its ridership targets as an example of one such TransLink success, calling the Richmond to Vancouver line “one of the most highly utilized transit systems in North America.”

The Peninsula forum was one of several stops the coalition has made throughout Surrey in recent weeks; on March 19 the group spoke in Cloverdale at Fraser Downs to a handful of attendees.

One month earlier, the City of White Rock hosted speakers from the coalition and the mayors’ council, urging a ‘yes’ vote to nearly 50 attendees.

Model said the goal of the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition – comprising more than 100 businesses and organizations across Metro Vancouver – is to educate residents on the mayors’ transportation plan over the coming weeks.

“When people really educate themselves and do themselves the justice of understanding what is in the entire plan, they’ll see it’s not just about transit and TransLink,” she said, noting that road improvements, cycling paths and improved walking facilities are included.

“There’s something in it for everyone.”

The transportation and transit referendum launched March 16 and will be open for voting by mail-in ballot until May 29.