Maple Ridge mayor asks for definite SkyTrain B-line

Nicole Read wants no doubt about bus connection in regional plan.

Nicole Read has been elected mayor in Maple Ridge.

Nicole Read has been elected mayor in Maple Ridge.

TransLink has been told to fix a minor detail in the mayors’ transportation vision that could have major implications for Maple Ridge.

Regional Transportation Investments: A Vision for Metro Vancouver calls for 11 new B-line bus routes, one of which would connect the new Evergreen SkyTrain in Coquitlam to downtown Maple Ridge.

However, the plan, approved last June, said a B-Line route could either run from Coquitlam to Langley – or it could run from Coquitlam to Maple Ridge. Under the either/or scenario, Maple Ridge could end up with no B-Line service.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said last week TransLink has been asked to change that.

“We’ve actually asked for the ‘or’ to be removed.”

It’s not a question of either one B-line service or the other.

“I would hope to see both B-line services in place.”

Read said a B-line, express-type bus service to downtown Maple Ridge is a priority in order to connect to the new SkyTrain service.

The new mayor is just getting up to speed on the TransLink issues after attending the mayor’s council meeting on Friday and said she wasn’t sure why one B-line service was put in the plan at the possible expense of the other.

She made the request at an earlier meeting with TransLink, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge staff.

Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker supported her even though it was a Maple Ridge issue.

And Becker said he recently received an e-mail from TransLink saying the change will be made.

“As I understand it, the ‘or’ is coming out.”

Instead, both B-line services will remain in the mayor’s vision for transportation, although one to Langley might not be needed, if light rail connects to Surrey, for example.

“Full marks to Nicole for coming loaded for bear on that,” Becker said of Read.

“And I was happy to support her let them know east of the Pitt River Bridge and north of the Fraser River we were going to be acting hand in glove.”

Becker said he and Read and the two councils are working well together in the early days after the Nov. 15 election.

“I think we’ve started really well on the two councils.”

TransLink’s vision, which includes a subway to UBC, light rail in Surrey and Langley, more West Coast Express service and more buses, are part of the vision, which will seek voter approval in a referendum next June.

But it seems doomed before it even starts.

Mayors met Friday with the rest of the mayor’s council to work out details of the referendum question.

The question, however, has to be something that both the provincial cabinet, which has final say, and taxpayers will support.

Becker agreed with Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, who says the $7.5-billion mayor’s vision is too expensive and too broad and will be rejected by taxpayers.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the government could allow a new revenue source to pay for the vision, but added it will have to be “far less than the $300 million they want.”

That leaves the mayors with a difficult choice – chop projects out of their vision and risk rupturing their consensus; extend the timeline from 10 to 15 years; or raise property taxes, which can be done without a referendum.

“One of the key principles to government is the challenge of affordability,” Stone said last week.

“If they want to stick to their original plan they’ll have to make up the difference with existing levers, and the lever that affords them the most flexibility obviously is the property tax.”

Mayors though still oppose hiking property taxes. That leaves the remaining likely options of a regional carbon tax, regional sales tax or vehicle levy to pay for the vision, subject to the provincial government’s already imposed limits.

“I don’t favour tolls on the Pitt River Bridge,” Becker said.

• Becker said he wants Pitt Meadows voters to be informed about the issue and is inviting TransLink staff to do a comprehensive review of agency at the Dec. 16 council meeting. That will be webcast so that people can later refer to the presentation as they ponder how to vote in next June’s referendum or plebiscite.

 

– with Black Press files