Editorial – 2012 will take its toll

The New Year is almost upon us, and it will bring new challenges and opportunities for Langley.

The year 2012 is almost upon us, and it will bring new challenges and opportunities for Langley.

One of the most significant events of the year will be the opening of the new Port Mann Bridge, and expanded Highway 1, and the associated tolls for drivers. It will have a huge impact on Langley in the coming years. With the new bridge comes dedicated bus lanes and new bus routes that will directly connect Langley to the Lougheed SkyTrain station. This will greatly improve transit trips into Vancouver and Burnaby, and will almost certainly allow some people from here to more easily work and study in those communities.

The tolls, however, will have a huge negative effect on many people who now drive on Highway 1. The effect will be so dramatic, at a time of frozen wages and steady tax increases by all levels government, that they are almost certain to change patterns of behaviour.

For starters, casual trips across the bridge are likely to be diminished. If there is no transit alternative, it is likely that many people from Langley will not shop or attend events on the other side of the river nearly as often.

This will be good for Langley businesses, and if they are able to offer the goods and services available in other areas at competitive prices, they are likely to gain customers.

When it comes to work-related trips, it will be interesting to see if more Langley residents seek work on this side of the river. Langley already has a strong employment base, and some businesses may look to relocate here if many of their employees already live here.

In the transportation industry, a major sector of the Langley economy, tolls can have a hugely negative effect. Will Langley-based companies reroute trucks to free crossings, of which there are none near Langley, or will their customers start coming to them by relocating here?

Tolls, particularly when applied unevenly within a region, have a major impact on communities. The net effect of the tolls will likely be more jobs in Langley and fewer reasons to cross the river. The improved bus service will be a great alternative for those wanting to make trips to Vancouver and Burnaby, but is likely that there will be fewer overall trips there.

This could be very good for the local economy, and for the environment, if there end up being fewer cars on the freeway.