Sidewinder: Cries of change for regional transit

Easily the most outstanding example of a regional function run amok in terms of services provided to outlying municipalities.

Sandy Macdougall

Sandy Macdougall

TransLink is taking everyone in Maple Ridge for a ride, but it has nothing to do with buses or bridges or roads.

Greedy, grasping TransLink is the provincial government brainchild, incorporating 21 municipalities, Electoral Area A and the Tsawwassen First Nation into what is supposed to be a regional transportation authority, overseeing the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, transit services, the SeaBus and West Coast Express.

It is easily the most outstanding example of a regional function run amok in terms of services provided to outlying municipalities, such as Maple Ridge.

TransLink has a 21-member mayors’ council, a nine-member board of directors and a regional transportation commissioner to govern its operations.

This is the group responsible for all the strange and myriad ways in which they extract fees, such as gas pump surcharges, to fund TransLink operations.

Huge sums of money are collected from every jurisdiction in TransLink’s world, but the vast majority of that money is spent in Surrey, Vancouver, Coquitlam, Delta, Burnaby and Richmond, and anywhere else that does not include Maple Ridge.

Years ago there was a stigma attached to living in Surrey, but those days have long since passed. Under Mayor Diane Watts’ leadership, Surrey now commands a priority seat at the TransLink trough.

The other large municipalities have eagerly joined Surrey in milking the smaller outlying jurisdictions to help fund their transit dreams.

The gas pump surcharge imposed by TransLink is particularly odious as it helps to subsidize buses, SkyTrain and other transit services that are of little or no use to most Maple Ridge residents, who must rely on their personal vehicles to commute.

It seems that the overall cost and inconvenience of many regional government services has long since outgrown the benefits provided to member municipalities, such as Maple Ridge.

On its own, Maple Ridge could not afford the modern water and sanitary sewer systems we enjoy today in the urban areas of the municipality.

And without regional participation, there would be no Kanaka Creek Regional Park, no Fraser Valley Regional Library, and no adequate diking system.

But many other regional functions do not provide benefits equal to the costs imposed on Maple Ridge residents.

Over the years, municipal council has relinquished much of its local autonomy to Metro Vancouver over many functions, including planning and transportation.

We pay millions of dollars annually to Metro, but have little or no say in how, when or at what level services will be provided, nor have we much say in the cost of those services.

Due to our smaller population, control over our own official community plan and subsequent land use resides largely with Metro, resulting in the idiotic situation where Richmond, Delta, Vancouver, Surrey and the other larger municipalities have the power of life and death over development in much of Maple Ridge.

The same holds true for transportation and transit functions, which are dominated by the larger member municipalities.

Maple Ridge’s interests in TransLink are supposedly represented by Mayor Ernie Daykin, but many residents of Silver Valley and eastern and central portions of the municipality do not feel well served by this system.

Even for shopping, many people in Whonnock and Ruskin find it easier to shop in Mission or Abbotsford. They can save significant amounts by purchasing gas anywhere east of Ruskin, where there is no punitive gas pump surcharges.

To be fair to Mayor Daykin, it is the system that is at fault.

It is a system that cries out for change if we are to receive fair treatment from TransLink.


Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor. (He will be writing in this spot once a month.)