COLUMN: No transit on new bridge?

Port Mann has lanes dedicated for express buses, but so far TransLink can't fund the service.

The provincial government and TransLink are scrambling to avoid one of the biggest embarrassments imaginable.

The province is in the midst of building a major bridge and freeway project, with lanes specifically designed for transit. Yet the project could open without any transit service at all.

The Port Mann bridge replacement will have lines dedicated to transit, as will the new highway. Plans call for express buses to use the lanes and get people from Surrey and Langley to the Lougheed SkyTrain station in under 30 minutes, no matter how congested the bridge is. A huge park and ride lot is being built in Langley to accommodate people who might otherwise drive.

The transit service, if it comes about, would also give some drivers a viable alternative to paying tolls.

Yet TransLink hasn’t got the money to start the new bus service. In a classic case of overreach, it boosted the gas tax by two cents earlier this year – only to find the move helped take gas tax revenue down.

For some, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The tax boost came at a time of high gas prices, and gave people one more good reason not to buy gas within Metro Vancouver.

It’s a tax revolt, Canadian style. There are no signs and no rallying point. People just go where they know they can save money.

When coupled with more generous cross-border shopping exemptions from the federal government, and a high Canadian dollar, TransLink’s tax boost has driven many people to the U.S. Cross-border trips in June were at levels that haven’t been seen since 1972.

This TransLink move ended up punishing local businesses, by taking away some of their customers. Undoubtedly, some employees at small businesses have lost their jobs as a result.

People looking for a better deal on gas don’t just go south. Many go east – because in Abbotsford, Mission and other areas of the Fraser Valley, gas is often 12 cents per litre cheaper.

TransLink says it is awaiting an audit before making its next move, but it seems it will be very difficult to fund a major expansion of bus service south of the Fraser. TransLink can’t boost fares, nor can it impose a car tax. Many mayors are against any more property tax increases, and TransLink has few other sources of ready cash.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom says there will be a rapid bus service, but thus far no one has said where the money will come from. If TransLink decides to go ahead with the service and there is no funding, it may mean cuts to bus routes in other parts of the region, including Vancouver and Burnaby. Politicians and citizens there will almost certainly react with outrage.

TransLink has done a few minor service adjustments to South Fraser bus routes, to take effect next week, and while this will add service on a couple of routes, none of the adjustments have anything to so with the Port Mann bus service.

The next few weeks will see just how much scrambling will take place, and may also be a prelude to next May’s provincial election. With tolls coming for sure, and bus service uncertain, the governing BC Liberals face a very bleak future in South Fraser ridings.

Meanwhile, the NDP, with a solid lead in the polls, likely won’t say anything on the issue, preferring to let the Liberals dig their own graves.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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

Just Posted

In 2019, roughly one person died every three days in Surrey due to illicit drug overdoses

123 people died in the city in 2019, down from the previous year

BC Liberals firing at NDP due to fact new Surrey hospital not in budget

But Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims says business case is needed first

United Nations designates Surrey a ‘Tree City’

Surrey is one of 59 cities in the world to receive the designation

White Rock seeks assistance for park rain damage

City applies for provincial funding following closure of Ruth Johnson Park and ravine

Surrey RCMP looking for missing boy, age 14

Brayden Ritchat, 14, last seen in the 10800-block of 141st Street in Whalley on Feb. 21

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

B.C. landlord can’t serve eviction notice because tenant is in jail

Homeowner baffled at arbitrator decision based on notice of hearing not being served properly

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Most Read