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South Fraser transit summit needed, says Langley Township council

The public transit needs of Langley and other communities south of the Fraser River boundary could be overlooked in the rush to develop a new regional transit plan for the Lower Mainland, Township councillors are complaining.

Councillor Charlie Fox triggered an avalanche of complaints when he predicted the current planning process will give too much attention to the Vancouver campaign for another underground rapid transit line.

“South of the Fraser is going to lose out to a subway on Broadway,” Fox said.

The issue that provoked the Fox complaint and equally unhappy follow-up remarks from other council members was the presentation of a report on regional transit needs at the Monday, May 12 meeting.

The report was generated by the city of Surrey for a TransLink’s mayors’ council which is trying to develop a transit funding proposal by a June 30 deadline set by the provincial government.

The report makes it clear that there is a large transit gap between the north and south, with the north having 56 per cent of the population and 68 per cent of the bus funding, while the south with 31 per cent of the population gets just 19 per cent of the bus money.

The north has 68 kilometres of rapid transit tracks, while the south has  just six kilometres, the report notes.

For the purpose of the report, the north is defined as seven communities: Burnaby, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Richmond and Vancouver, while the South consists of five communities: both Langleys, Surrey, White Rock and Delta.

North shore communities, which make up another 13 per cent of the population, were not included.

To catch up with the north, the Surrey report says south of the Fraser needs to double the number of buses and quadruple the amount of rapid transit trackage.

Fox felt the report ought to use stronger language to underline the disparity in transit service.

Councillor Kim Richter said the report didn’t address specific Langley needs.

“I don’t see the benefit [to Langley in endorsing it],” Richter said.

Councillor Steve Ferguson proposed a “council of councils” summit meeting of south of the Fraser communities to present a united front on transit.

Ferguson said without a south-of-the-Fraser united front, the population imbalance will continue to mean transit projects for the north will get priority at the expense of the south.

“Count the heads,” Ferguson said. “They [north of the Fraser communities] are going to have the majority of the votes.”

Councillor Michelle Sparrow said without a united front of south-of-the-Fraser communities, she was “very concerned that our voice in Langley won’t be represented.”

“If we aren’t united on this, our voices are going to be lost,” Sparrow added.

Mayor Jack Froese said other mayors on this side of the Fraser have told him a co-ordinated position would help, but the tight schedule for the report may not allow enough time for a summit.

“We’re kind of at the eleventh hour,” Froese said.

“The deadline the minister gave us has been very short.”

Council voted unanimously to poll other south of the Fraser communities about arranging a transit summit.

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