COLUMN: Mapping out transit shortfalls

I had the opportunity to take the new 555 bus, the only bus route using the Port Mann Bridge, several weeks ago.

The express bus runs between the Carvolth Exchange in Langley and the Braid SkyTrain station. It goes through Surrey but does not stop.

It’s a great service and makes getting to Vancouver, Burnaby or New Westminster easy.

It’s too bad that most Surrey residents don’t have access to such a service, which was promised when the Port Mann Bridge and freeway rebuilding project was announced.

Surrey residents were told that such a service would make it easier to use transit and avoid tolls. A convenient bus service beats paying $6 a day in tolls.

A revealing transit map at Carvolth Exchange provides important insights into where transit service operates – and where it is non-existent.

The map outlines all the bus and other transit routes throughout Metro Vancouver. The vast amounts of blank space on that map – places where there is no bus service at all – are confined mainly to three Lower Mainland municipalities: Surrey, Langley Township and Maple Ridge.

By contrast, Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond (with a few exceptions in farm areas) and North Vancouver have transit routes criss-crossing almost every part of their municipalities.

Even the Tri-Cities area, which has historically been underserved, has bus routes serving places as remote as White Pine Beach and throughout the newer area of Port Moody on the north side of Burrard Inlet. Of course, the Evergreen Line now under construction will give the Tri-Cities even better transit service.

The 555 route has helped to fill a bit of the gap for Langley Township residents, but it only offers a speedier way to SkyTrain.

The service itself highlights some of the huge gaps in service south of the Fraser.

Not far from the Carvolth exchange, thousands of people live along the 208 Street corridor – yet there is no bus service there at all, not even a connecting bus to the Carvolth Exchange.

In Surrey, areas like East Clayton, where parking is at such a premium that 85 per cent of all city parking complaints come from that neighbourhood, has minimal service. East Clayton is a five-minute drive from Carvolth Exchange, but there is no bus service between the two points.

There is still no easy way to get between Cloverdale and White Rock via transit. Bus service in many Surrey neighbourhoods disappears after 7 p.m., yet the transit map proudly proclaimed all the late-night bus routes available in Vancouver.

The transit map is well worth a detailed examination, as Surrey, White Rock, Delta and Langley  residents will be asked soon to look over (and vote on) a list of tax increases that mayors want, to boost TransLink service.

While the details have yet to be released, Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has suggested they may include some or all of a $75 car tax,  a .5 per cent increase in the sales tax, five per cent boost in property taxes, new regional carbon tax and a $1 toll on every bridge in the region.

Without a solid proposal for a substantial increase in transit service, and a serious attempt to bring bus service to the blank areas of the transit map, how could anyone in Surrey or other South Fraser municipalities ever back such a plan?

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

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