This spring, Metro Vancouver residents will be asked to vote on a 0.5% increase in PST to fund the Mayors’ Council vision for transit in Metro Vancouver. Although it’s ultimately up to the voters to decide whether they support the plan, it is interesting that both the Liberals and the NDP are now urging voters to support a ‘yes’ vote. The issue, however, is not quite as black and white for those of us who live in South Delta.
Delta is consistently subjected to transit cuts that many in the community, including myself, see as unfair. We lost our heavily used 601 express bus to downtown and now must transfer to the Canada Line. The result is that seniors have stopped going to Vancouver and have become isolated in South Delta. We also can’t get to North Delta or Surrey without spending up to an hour and a half on a bus. Recently the 404 bus route was changed; now we need to transfer to a second bus if we want to take a simple trip down Steveston Highway to Ironwood Mall.
TransLink cites low ridership to justify these cuts, but the reality is that if we had an efficient and reliable transit system then people would use it; these types of cuts only drive more people away. And they would like us to forget that the 601 was eliminated in order to increase ridership numbers on the Canada Line, not to make it more efficient and safe to get to Vancouver. Transit users in South Delta are understandably fed up and are hesitant to give TransLink additional funding when we know very little will change to the service levels at home.
Yes, we need to reduce congestion by improving transit in the region: anyone who commutes through the Massey Tunnel on a daily basis knows the problem all too well. Over half of the Delta workforce commutes outside of the municipality, and over ten percent use public transit for their commute. The proposed transit improvements may eventually benefit Delta by getting cars off city roads and shortening our commute: but just think what it would do if light rail transit was part of the Massey Bridge planning? Now that would be worth a ‘yes’ vote on the referendum.
I should note in fairness that the Mayors’ Council plan does offer some local improvements, including better bus service for Highway 17; improvements to the South Delta Exchange and upgrades to the bus network throughout South Delta. Gee it’s nice to get the crumbs.
There are good reasons to support a ‘yes’ vote in other areas of the region but in Delta there is a lot of frustration with TransLink and the need to vote ‘yes’ is not immediately obvious.