Vision for Metro transportation plan set

Mayor Nicole Read contends not enough in it for Maple Ridge.

The list of transportation improvements for Maple Ridge isn’t going to get any better, says the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation.

So it will be up to Maple Ridge people to vote yes or no to another West Coast Express train during rush hours, a B-line bus service to the Evergreen SkyTrain and more buses in the ‘burbs – all to be partly paid for by a half-per-cent jump in  provincial sales tax.

“We are in the process of trying to win a campaign to fund this plan,” Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said Monday.

“We can’t be going back to open up the plan, and if we did, we’d have 22 mayors [asking] for breaks.”

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read told council last week that she wants more for Maple Ridge, that there’s not enough in the plan to justify the half-per-cent sales tax hike, now called the Congestion Improvement Tax.

People decide in a mail-in ballot between March 16 and May 29 whether they support the tax hike for TransLink.

Moore said the plan is set.

“At this point, the plan cannot be opened up to further negotiations.”

He said mayors last year hammered out the Transportation and Transit Plan so it included something for all regions of Metro Vancouver.

“I think we did a really good job in actually capturing where we needed to grow the system. We wanted to ensure that we were using good transportation policy in developing this and not just a wish list of everyone. If we did, this would be double in size.”

Moore said the vision offers lots to Maple Ridge. The northeast sector, including Pitt Meadows and Coquitlam, will see the second-largest growth of bus service in the plan.

But Read says the vision needs more details and to state exactly when Maple Ridge will see improvements.

“Right now, there’s not any roll-out plan for any of the mayors. I would like to see a list of priorities – so that Maple Ridge knew what it was concretely getting, and when.”

What will TransLink do with the money once it gets it, she asked.

“The public is very clear, they don’t trust TransLink. Using the mayors’ credibility to sell TransLink concerns me. That is not a long-term solution.”

But according to Mayors Council on Thursday, a B-line or express bus service to Coquitlam “is one of the top priority B-line corridors.” The routes would start operating about two years after the tax hike, if approved.

Shuttle bus service to Silver Valley is another “top priority” it says. That will be brought in within the first three years of the plan.

But Maple Ridge engineer Dave Pollock says other documentation of the transportation plan says it will take six to 10 years to get a B-line or express bus in Maple Ridge.

The plan’s appendix also doesn’t show that both Maple Ridge and Langley will get a B-line link to Coquitlam. The initial document said one or the other but not both.

However, Thursday’s statement says the entire plan is now being updated to reflect new priorities, such as ensuring Maple Ridge gets a B-line within two years.

The transportation vision also includes more money for the major road network, which helps pay for Maple Ridge road.

Moore said across the TransLink system about 30 per cent of the buses pass people at bus stops because they’re overloaded.

“That tells you we need more bus service in the region.”

The West Coast Express train is now standing room only by the time you get to Coquitlam.

But an extra train for the rush hour service will be added by 2018, says the Mayor’s Council, increasing the number morning and evening trains to and from Vancouver from five to six.

The Transportation and Transit Plan was created last year under direction of the provincial government.

Read, however, opposed the adoption of the sales tax increase at the mayors council because members don’t have enough say in how TransLink is being run, while being asked to be accountable for funding.

The plebiscite must take place before a study proceeds on a rapid-bus system linking Maple Ridge to Coquitlam Centre and the SkyTrain system, Moore pointed out.

Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Port Coquitlam and TransLink all have agreed to pay $10,000 each for a study that will determine what kind of rapid bus, either B-Line that uses bus lanes with signal priority or a rapid bus system that has its own road way, will be used.


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