Langley City and Township mayors, Ted Schaffer (left) and Jack Froese.

Langley City and Township mayors, Ted Schaffer (left) and Jack Froese.

Going it alone on transit unlikely, say Langleys’ mayors

Mayors from the south side of the Fraser River aren’t all that interested in building their own transit system

Mayors from the south side of the Fraser River aren’t all that interested in building their own transit system, Langley Township mayor Jack Froese and Langley City mayor Ted Schaffer said, following a meeting with Surrey mayor Linda Hepner.

It was their first meeting since voters rejected a proposal to fund transit improvements through an increase in the sales tax, an outcome that some have suggested could lead communities to exit the regional transit administration.

Froese and Schaffer said there wasn’t much enthusiasm at the July 8 roundtable meeting for that option, which would involve municipalities laying claim to their share of the regional gas tax that funds TransLink.

“We would be too small to go it alone in any capacity,” Schaffer told The Times.

“Going it alone is very difficult,” Froese said.

Froese said trying to fund local transit improvements locally would require tax increases.

“It would just be too high a burden,” Froese said, and unfair, considering the amount Langley taxpayers have already contributed to transit improvements in other communities.

“We’ve done our share,” Froese said.

“It’s time Langley and south of the Fraser (communities) gets the transit we need.”

Schaffer said it may be time to look further south, to Abbotsford and Chilliwack, to work with the Langleys, Surrey and other south-of-the-Fraser communities to develop a regional transportation strategy for this side of the river.

The upcoming federal election could prove helpful too, Schaffer said, suggesting the federal government might want to nail down votes by committing funding for transit upgrades.

The three mayors plan another roundtable some time in September, Schaffer said, by which time he hopes some fresh ideas will have emerged.

“(The question is) how we go about paying for it,” Schaffer said.

“Maybe there’s something we’ve totally overlooked.”

The Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation has given the provincial government six months to find another source of funding and fix the way TransLink operates.

If there is no progress “on TransLink accountability and [the] funding gap by the end of 2015, the Mayor’s Council will be forced to reconsider its role within the TransLink governance structure,” states the resolution passed by the council on July 2, the same day the results of the transit plebiscite on the proposed 0.5 per cent sales tax hike were disclosed.

The resolution also warns a property tax increase is not an acceptable alternative.

The proposed tax that would have funded $7.5 billion in upgrades over 10 years was rejected by 61.7 per cent of all voters in the region.

The margin against was higher in Langley Township where 74.49 per cent voted no, and in Langley City, where residents voted 72.29 per cent against.