Questions raised at the ninth telephone town hall on the transportation and transit tax centred around the poor levels of transit service in Langley, and what will be done to improve it.
While questioners did not give Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese a tough time, many of his answers left them disappointed.
Froese and Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association CEO Elizabeth Model fielded questions during the one-hour meeting Monday, moderated by former radio hot-liner Bill Good.
The mayor stated that Langley’s population will double in the next 30 years and “more and better transit” is needed. He said the Mayors’ Council plan will bring light rapid transit to Langley City in 12 years, and also bring in rapid buses and better roads.
He said rapid bus service will be instituted along Fraser Highway and 200 Street, with three-minute frequency on Fraser Highway and five-minute frequency on 200 Street.
Questioners wanted more specifics. Lorraine said “where I live, the bus runs once an hour and takes a tour all around Langley for half an hour just to get somewhere.”
Froese acknowledged that bus service along Fraser Highway to Aldergrove is infrequent, and that service to rural areas of Langley Township, which has 75 per cent of its land in the Agricultural Land Reserve, is non-existent. That won’t change under the plan, he said.
In response to a question from Ryan about bus service to Gloucester industrial park, he said there were no plans to institute any bus service there, despite the fact that thousands of people work there.
“Why should I vote ‘yes’ to a tax increase that will never benefit me?” Ryan said.
Froese said that the Township will get a significant amount of money from the plan to improve 16 Avenue and Fraser Highway, including 50 per cent of the cost to widen Fraser Highway to four lanes — a project that remains to be done between 232 Street and Aldergrove.
Johanna said she lives in a rural area of Langley, and must walk 45 minutes to Fraser Highway and 232 Street to get a bus. She noted there are no streetlights, no sidewalks and wildlife on the road at night.
“Bus service isn’t as good as we would like to see,” Froese admitted. “The plan focuses on more densely-populated areas. Rural areas will not get improvements.”
Lynn said that she supports the mayors’ plan and is voting ‘yes,’ but would like to see more detailed work done on road pricing. Froese said the mayors will be looking into it, and if it is established, the gas tax would likely be lowered.
Froese was asked how much the ‘yes’ campaign is spending and where the money is coming from. He said it is spending about $6 million, from TransLink and “taxation sources.” Model said organizations such as hers are volunteering their time to get the ‘yes’ message out.
Asked about bus service along 208 Street in Willoughby, Froese said a bus route on that densely-populated street is part of the mayors’ plan.
Bruce asked where the estimate of an additional one million people moving to the region in the next 30 years came from, saying “one million more people will create total chaos.” He said the province is not planning expansions to schools and hospitals to meet the demand from that many additional people.
Froese said the number came from Metro Vancouver’s regional growth strategy, and while it is an estimate, “it is based on very solid facts.
“If we are not planning today and putting infrastructure in place, we will be in dire straits 30 years from now.”
Paul said he supports the sales tax increase.
“Take a ride on transit and look at the people riding it. They will be paying for pensions for people like me for years to come. A half per cent does not break anyone’s bank.”