Mayor Nicole Read has not changed her opinion of the transit referendum, even after reassurances from the Mayor’s Council that transit improvements will come to Maple Ridge soon after a “yes” vote.
Ballots have been mailed to voters to cast their votes on the Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax, which will add a half a point to the provincial sales tax to pay for transit infrastructure.
Read has repeatedly said Maple Ridge residents need details about what improvements are coming, and on what timeline.
A letter from the Mayor’s Council, signed by interim executive director Michael Buda and dated March 5, offered more detail:
• A B-Line rapid bus route from Maple Ridge to Coquitlam, intended as link to SkyTrain would come in two to three years after the enactment of a PST increase.
• Increased bus service hours with the existing fleet would come as soon at 2016, and the busiest routes, 701 and 791, were specifically mentioned.
• West Coast Express service upgrades would include a new locomotive and 10 new train cars at a capital cost of $386 million, for an addition 1,500 seats daily. The Mayor’s Council said the locomotive and first five cars will enter service within three to four years, and the remaining five cars by 2024.
• West Coast Express Albion Station – “We commit to working with Maple Ridge municipal staff to study the potential of an Albion Station, and will report the results to the Maple Ridge Council,” said the letter.
But Read remained skeptical. She said Buda had advised council it is not possible to even order the B-Line buses and have them on the road in two years. There will also have to be infrastructure improvements on the route.
She noted that on the West Coast Express Albion Station, the council remains “very non-committal.”
Also, she said council has already been advised that the West Coast Express trains will not be added until TransLink can gauge Rapid Bus ridership, and what effect it will have on WCE. So she is skeptical of Buda’s timeline.
She said residents of Maple Ridge already feel they overspend for TransLink.
“They don’t feel they get enough service for what they already pay.”
One Maple Ridge resident is featuring in the “Yes” campaign for B.C. unions, saying in a video that the improvements will shorten his commute and add to his quality of life. Bill Reeve commutes to work in Queensborough.
“You get home late and you don’t have time to wind down,” Reeve says in the video. If he had that extra hour or more usually spent in traffic, Reeve says he would spend that time with his wife and son.
“I don’t have the opportunity to take transit because of where I work,” Reeve explains. “If more people were off the road it would make my life easier.”
The video is the third in a series co-produced by the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Local 378 (COPE 378), CUPE BC and the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 134 (ATU 134).
“Spending time stuck in traffic can grind down your quality of life,” said COPE 378 President David Black. “Like Bill, most people would rather spend that time with their loved ones.”