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Maple Ridge not dreaming of SkyTrain, just a faster bus

Vancouver wants a subway line to UBC, while Surrey and Langley want light rail transit. All Maple Ridge wants is some fast buses, a few more runs of the West Coast Express, and more community shuttle buses.

“We think that could be done in the short term. It doesn’t have that huge billion-dollar price tag to it,” said Mayor Ernie Daykin.

“I could stamp my feet up and down saying I want SkyTrain,” but that’s not reasonable.

Maple Ridge is part of TransLink’s northeast sector, which includes Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Coquitlam and Pitt Meadows.

Last week was that sector’s turn to put its desires into the transportation “vision” requested by the provincial government.

TransLink has to have its vision ready by June 30, as part of a provincially led referendum on TransLink’s funding.

The TransLink Mayor’s Council created a working group to craft the vision and to hear each city’s priorities based on the long-term Transport 2040 plan.

Daykin likes the focus the process has imposed on local mayors.

“It’s great because it gives us the opportunity to sit down and roll up our sleeves and do some work. I think it’s a good thing,” he said.

“If we get that RapidBus service every seven or eight minutes, then we can actually get people out of their cars. They can move into the downtown and not need two cars or maybe not even need one.”

Daykin said a RapidBus system, with its own lanes along the Lougheed Highway, could get people to the SkyTrain within 20 minutes, with two or three stops in Maple Ridge, a couple in Pitt Meadows and Port Coquitlam.

“In my view, our ask is a cost-effective approach and a reasonable approach based on our density. We’re not the Broadway corridor with 100,000 boardings a day. SkyTrain is 20 or 30 years out perhaps, but a RapidBus will be virtually almost as quick, maybe as quick.”

The line even could have “enhanced” bus stops that resemble SkyTrain stations and can handle lots of passengers.

Daykin said Maple Ridge is meeting Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy: Metro Vancouver 2040, which calls for downtown Maple Ridge to become a regional city centre with a population of 25,000 people.

That will put people within a five to 15-minute walk from the West Coast Express Port Haney station or the Haney Place Mall bus loop.

The mayors’ goals and priorities that will be encompassed in their vision will be based on TransLink’s own long-range plan, Transport 2040, which predicts another 1.3 million people in the region and another 600,000 cars by that time.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore leads the group of seven mayors and is also leading the regional push for RapidBus. Earlier this year, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Port Coquitlam teamed up to push for a RapidBus line connecting downtown Maple Ridge to Coquitlam’s new SkyTrain, which opens in two years.

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone told mayors they had to have a vision for what they’d like to see in transportation in the Lower Mainland, and how it would be paid for, by the end of June.

In return, Stone would delay a referendum on TransLink that originally was planned for this November’s election.

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