Parties have different promises on tolls, transit for Langley

Our Advance series about big issues continues with a look at transportation.

The sign at the bus stop on 203rd Street announces that new service will be starting on April 24.

That’s a good sign for Langley’s transit advocates, who have been fighting for better bus service for years. But it’s just the first part of TransLink’s 10-year vision, and the provincial parties are sparring over who will do a better job delivering transit to the Lower Mainland.

“It’s always one of the top three issues,” said Nathan Pachal, a transit advocate turned Langley City councillor.

With Phase 2 of TransLink’s plan yet to come, the major parties in the B.C. election have staked out positions on transit, roads, bridge tolls, and transportation.

There have been big changes in the past year, as a long term funding deadlock has partly broken, Pachal said.

The federal government has pledged 40 per cent of capital cost funding for new transit projects.

The B.C. Liberals have promised to match that, although just for rapid transit lines, while the NDP is pledging 40 per cent for all capital projects.

The NDP is promising to eliminate bridge tolls, while the Liberals are promising to cap them at $500 a year.

“The Mayor’s Council wasn’t expecting that,” said Pachal. “Does that preclude mobility pricing in the future?”

Road pricing has been a prefered strategy, spreading the cost of using the network wider among travellers.

The aging population will also factor into this election, as Langley City in particular has a high concentration of seniors, and more seniors housing is regularly being built in the Township.

“Our transportation system is not age friendly,” said Stephanie Williams, general manager of Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (BEST). “It’s not built with seniors in mind.”

BEST is working with groups like TransLink and ICBC to help seniors plan for the day they give up – or lose – their driver’s licences.

One of the positives in the current round of TransLink funding is that there is some cash to help pedestrians as well as drivers and transit users, Pachal noted.