COLUMN: We’re caught in a loop of transit shortcomings

Improved transit south-of-the-Fraser has always been an issue, and it may not be one going away anytime soon.

The Mayors’ Council has agreed to tax and fare increases to fund the first phase of an ambitious transit-expansion plan.

This approval follows months of consultations, and comes 1½ years after voters turned down a more ambitious plan, which would have been funded by a 0.5 per cent increase in sales tax.

The first phase modestly improves transit service, and can be seen primarily as a catch-up move. Service on the busiest bus routes, on SkyTrain and Seabus, along with HandyDART, will increase. A modest number of new bus routes will also be added.

As is so often the case, the improvements south of the Fraser are fewer, as the area’s transit service continues to lag that offered in the core area of Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and Richmond.

To some degree, this is a vicious circle. People don’t use transit to the same extent south of the Fraser because it isn’t convenient, thus the routes do not get as overcrowded.

A glance at the map that accompanies the summary of TransLink’s Phase 1 actions (available at tenyearvision.translink.ca) illustrates just how deficient service south of the Fraser is. Significant areas of Surrey receive no transit service at all.

A few of the gaps will be filled. In South Surrey, a new route is planned for the rapidly growing Morgan Crossing area. Clayton, which has been growing for 15 straight years, will get a new route to supplement its infrequent lone shuttle bus. A B-Line bus will be instituted along Fraser Highway where the current 502 and 503 buses are often overcrowded and passengers left behind.

On the road front, the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge has been shuffled to Phase 2. Even the failed sales-tax plan called for it to be a toll bridge, so the delay is hard to explain.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, vice-chair of the Mayors’ Council, lauded the decision to boost service and raise taxes as “A Merry Christmas day for the region.”

She points to Phase 2 as when Surrey will really get better transit. Two rapid-transit lines are supposed to be built. One will be an LRT line from Newton to Guildford, along King George Boulevard and 104 Avenue. The other, more controversial line will be built along Fraser Highway to Langley City.

Surrey officials want that line to also be an LRT line, but have run into resistance from a number of citizens’ groups who want SkyTrain technology used. The provincial government wants that option to be explored. However, as Surrey’s rapid-transit manager Paul Lee points out, there is no infrastructure money available at present from the federal government for SkyTrain along Fraser Highway.

Actual rapid-transit service along Fraser Highway is likely at least a decade away – assuming the federal and provincial governments continue to be willing to pay for a significant portion. In the meantime, Surrey, Delta, White Rock and Langley residents will continue to have substandard transit service, even though they will pay significantly more in taxes for the improvements.

Another tax may hit this area disproportionately. TransLink plans to implement a development cost charge on new development, if the province approves. That additional fee will be paid by those who buy new homes. If current trends continue – and there is no reason to think they won’t – a great deal of that construction will take place in Surrey and Langley. Many young families have chosen to move to these areas, particularly to townhomes, which are more affordable. The costs of these homes will rise due to this new tax.

South of the Fraser residents will have to decide if these extra costs are worth it.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP are investigating a reported assault at Panorama Ridge Secondary. (Shane MacKichan photos)
UPDATE: Two youths arrested after assault with a weapon at Panorama Ridge Secondary in Surrey

School placed on a ‘hold and secure’ until safety of all students confirmed

Image Surrey.ca
Surrey to pony up one-third of cost to cover Cloverdale lacrosse box in 2022

This will be at the Cloverdale Athletic Park at 64th Avenue and 168th Street

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Delta Mayor George Harvie. (Submitted photo)
Mayor asks Fraser Health to reconcider North Delta vaccination site

Harvie wants a North Delta clinic to complement the South Delta location

B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Murder conviction upheld in case where Surrey mom was stabbed in front of her kids

Jury in 2017 found Tanpreet Kaur Athwal, aka Sonia Kaur Gill, guilty of first-degree murder in 2007 death of Amanpreet Bahia, 33

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on October 27, 2020. The City of Vancouver says it has purchased a former hotel at a major thoroughfare that can house about 65 units to accommodate homeless people. A joint news release by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and city says 2075 Kingsway, Days Inn by Wyndham Vancouver, will be ready for accommodation this November. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen also announced a $51.5 million Rapid Housing Initiative for Vancouver that is expected to create 135 new affordable homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Former Vancouver hotel to be converted to 65 units for homeless people by the fall

The former Days Inn on Kingsway will be ready to house people in November

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Most Read