Editorial — Mayors' parochialism ensures transit fights will continue

Metro Vancouver mayors are about to get their wish — they will have more say over the long-term planning and operations of TransLink.

It is highly doubtful that this will be of any benefit to Langley and other South Fraser municipalities. The sheer number of mayors north of the Fraser, and the tactics used by mayors such as Derek Corrigan of Burnaby, are almost sure to prevent any meaningful improvement of transit and transportation in the South Fraser area — the most under-served, and fastest-growing part of the region.

Vancouver is primarily interested in the construction of a rapid transit line along Broadway to UBC, which would replace the region’s busiest bus route. The fact that the UBC campus is mostly empty for four months of the year doesn’t seem to be much of an impediment to this plan.

Meanwhile, plans to extend SkyTrain to Langley, or build light rail along three main streets in Surrey, have gone nowhere. They have received almost no support from mayors outside the South Fraser region, and there hasn’t even been any meaningful discussion about some new bus routes into areas like Willoughby, that are very badly served by TransLink.

And while the 555 bus from the Carvolth exchange to Braid station has been welcomed and is well-utilized, plans for a similar bus from Surrey across the Port Mann Bridge have gone nowhere — despite it being an integral part of the Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1 project, as announced by then-premier Gordon Campbell oh so many years ago.

Most mayors are very parochial and do not think of the needs of the region as a whole. The nature of their jobs make it hard to be otherwise — they are elected by residents of one city to think about and fight for the needs of the people of that city. While “beggar thy neighbour” may not be tattooed on their bodies, it is often foremost in their minds.

Of course, Langley, Surrey and Delta mayors act that way as well. But they do have a strong case to make. Transit service here is not nearly as extensive as in most other regions. Two of the five river crossings from this region are tolled. There has been no extension of SkyTrain services here for 20 years, and the population is growing at a much faster pace than in any other part of Metro Vancouver.

These facts don’t seem to matter to most other mayors. Giving them more power over TransLink decision-making could be a big blow to any aspirations of better transit and  a fairer approach to tolling here.

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