COLUMN: No more excuses

Express-bus service in Surrey must be demanded by residents

Surrey residents need to pressure the city, the province and TransLink to implement an express-bus service across the Port Mann Bridge.

The service should be in place by September, when school resumes and transit use goes up dramatically. There is no excuse for delays.

Express-bus service was promised as part of the overall package which included a new Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1 improvements. As the bridge is now tolled, an express bus which offers a reasonable option to driving is a vital part of the whole package.

Express-bus service from Langley was instituted in December. Buses are leaving from the Carvolth park and ride, just south of Highway 1 on 86 Avenue. Some Surrey residents are using it, but it is too far away from the most populated areas of Surrey.

A family member is using this service regularly, and I’m told she is able to get from the parking lot to work in downtown Vancouver in just under an hour – at the height of the rush hour.

The express bus leaves Langley and goes directly to the Braid SkyTrain station. There are no intermediate stops, which accounts for the speed of the overall trip.

A similar service from Highway 1 near 160 Street needs to begin. Sufficient temporary parking should be found somewhere close to the freeway, and an express bus needs to start heading from Surrey to the Braid station. There are more residents in Surrey than in Langley, and they were promised this service.

If TransLink can’t find the money for the service, the province should pay for it in its entirety until the TransLink budget issues have been solved. The buses will likely be packed from the first day, so the subsidy would not be high.

The city was planning a bus exchange just off the new 156 Street underpass, but a private-sector partner pulled out. This has been cited as the reason why there is no express bus service from Surrey across the new bridge.

But this is simply an excuse, nothing more. If decision-makers really wanted this bus service to go ahead, it would already be up and running.

Surrey residents, despite what some opinionated people may say, want better transit service. Many would be very happy to park their cars on this side of the bridge and avoid paying tolls, particularly if there was an express service.

Interestingly enough, one used to exist 40 years ago between Surrey and downtown Vancouver. Today, the express bus only needs to go as far as the SkyTrain line.

There are many more residents in Surrey than there were 40 years ago, and such a service would also offer fear better access to the buses serving the Tri-Cities area.

This issue came up during the provincial election, but there were no pledges by any of the candidates to do anything about this unfulfilled promise. Now is the time for residents who would use the service to apply pressure to the city, province and TransLink.

A transit service that would be well-used from the start, and would offer relief from tolls, would be a winner.

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

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