Editorial — Exit strategy may be needed

Word that bus service on the new Port Mann Bridge is on hold is a body blow to Langley and Surrey residents.

On Tuesday, it was confirmed that there will be no rapid buses from Langley’s new park and ride to the Lougheed SkyTrain station — at least for now.

TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis said the planned bus service expansion is on hold, as TransLink has been ordered to find cost savings, is undergoing a provincial audit, and the Mayors’ Council has rescinded earlier approval for a property tax increase to fund expansion of bus service south of the Fraser.

This is the latest and perhaps most disheartening blow to South Fraser residents, who are already upset about tolls. Within a year, all who use the Port Mann Bridge will be paying tolls. The Golden Ears Bridge will be an alternative, but it too is tolled.

Those who want to drive along the South Fraser Perimeter Road from 176 Street west and get a free crossing via the Pattullo Bridge are welcome to do so, but heavy congestion is almost a certainty.

Now comes word that there may not be a transit alternative.

This is a body blow to Langley and Surrey, in particular residents in the northern half of the two municipalities. Many people live there so they are within easy range of the Port Mann. Now they have been told to expect to pay $120 a month in tolls, and not to take transit, because there won’t be a service for them to use.

All this comes as finishing work continues on the giant park and ride lot on 86 Avenue. This parking lot includes an underpass to allow buses to easily access both sides of the freeway. It has been built at substantial expense, with the provincial and federal government providing much of the money.

Langley’s MP, MLAs and mayors must rise to protest the complete snubbing of this community, and disregard for taxpayers’ dollars already spent to provide this park and ride lot — and a bus-only lane on the new bridge.

The entire issue shows just how out of touch TransLink is with those south of the Fraser, who provide it with significant tax revenues. Jarvis said TransLink’s first priority is to keep existing services operating. This means it is more important to run mostly-empty buses in Burnaby at 11 p.m. than to run buses from Langley to the Lougheed SkyTrain station during rush hour.

If this decision is not reversed quickly, South Fraser leaders must begin planning an exit from TransLink.

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