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Ridge, Meadows mayors lobby for RapidBus link to SkyTrain

According to the 2011 Census, Maple Ridge motorists have the longest commute among Metro Vancouver commuters – traveling an average of 35 minutes to get to work.  - The News/Files
According to the 2011 Census, Maple Ridge motorists have the longest commute among Metro Vancouver commuters – traveling an average of 35 minutes to get to work.
— image credit: The News/Files

Pity poor Maple Ridge motorists, stuck in traffic the longest among Metro Vancouver commuters.

According to the 2011 Census, drivers here languish the longest in their daily travels – an average of 35 minutes.

That’s more than Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam motorists, who travel 33 minutes to work, and Surrey residents, who spend 31 minutes behind the wheel.

The numbers came from the National Household Survey, conducted as part of Statistic Canada’s 2011 Census.

The average commute time in Metro Vancouver is 28 minutes, according to the survey.

For Mayor Ernie Daykin, the word ‘average’ is key, because many people spend way longer behind the wheel.

“There’s a whole bunch of reasons why people choose to commute,” he said Wednesday.

Longer commuting times could be a result of geography, with Maple Ridge one of the more outlying regions.

“What we need to do is get folks out of their cars,” he said. “What needs to happen, we need a direct RapidBus.”

Daykin, Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters and Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore are working on exactly that.

The trio met in December to see if there is a way to speed up the arrival of a RapidBus service in the area, so it can tie in with the opening of the Evergreen SkyTrain line in Coquitlam in 2016.

“We’ve got SkyTrain coming out [to Coquitlam]. We just want to make sure our citizens benefit from it, as well. We all pay into it. It’s just at the talking stage at this point,” Walters said.

TransLink’s 30-year Regional Transportation Strategy identifies RapidBus on Lougheed Highway connecting the three communities.

Part of the challenge will be finding enough room for a RapidBus lane which can have either its own lane or have traffic signal priority and share space with cars.

A westbound bus and high-occupancy vehicle lane was added to the north side of Lougheed Highway in 2010, between 200th Street and the Pitt River Bridge.

But Walters doesn’t want to see that allotted to transit at the expense of motor vehicles. Instead, RapidBus likely would require two new lanes in either direction.

Nor does she want any new RapidBus service to come at the expense of the No. 701 bus, which meanders through Pitt Meadows on its way to Braid SkyTrain station in New Westminster.

“That’s something people rely on a lot.”

Walters said Port Coquitlam and TransLink will cooperate on a feasibility study this year, meaning Pitt Meadows won’t have to worry about the cost.

Moore wants the study to start soon.

“I think we need to work hard and quickly to have a RapidBus system in place to open with the Evergreen Line,” he said Thursday.

Lougheed does have “significant right of ways” from Maple Ridge to Coquitla and RapidBus can work within existing road right-of-ways and over major utilities without having to move them, reducing cost, he added.

It's also cheaper than SkyTrain or light rail transit.

"We can't continually build bigger bridges and wider roads. This is financially and environmentally not sustainable."

Maple Ridge’s own transportation plan, now under review, also includes a RapidBus route on Lougheed Highway to downtown.

The push for RapidBus comes while TransLink negotiates a new lease agreement with CP Rail for track time for the West Coast Express commuter rail service. The current lease expires this year.

Daykin said he hasn’t advocated, held meetings or written letters calling for expansion of the rail service since he and other mayors lobbied for more following the successful daily trips during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Maple Ridge doesn’t have enough people to justify increased West Coast Express service.

“We need density, for that to run all day.”

Maybe in 10 years, West Coast Express could run a dozen times a day, he added.

Walters, though, says mayors have told TransLink they want expanded train service to be part of the negotiations.

A consultant helping Maple Ridge with its transportation plan also told council last year that people want more West Coast Express service.

See related story: Make Fraser Valley pay into TransLink, Maple Ridge mayor says

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