Langley’s mayors met with Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner Wednesday to talk about the future of regional transit in the wake of the failed TransLink plebiscite.
Hepner has been vocal both before and after the plebiscite about pushing through the planned light rail corridor down Fraser Highway, even if the plebiscite to raise the PST failed.
The Surrey mayor has recently talked about seeking a private funding source to help with the costs.
“We’ve been looking and have had early conversations with those interested in doing that,” Hepner told the Surrey Now this week. “But do I still believe it needs to be shared regionally? Yes I do.”
The light rail link was planned to run from the existing SkyTrain line down Fraser Highway to end in Langley City. It was one of the most high-profile parts of the Mayors’ Council plans that were to have been funded by the tax increase.
Langley’s mayors and senior officials didn’t talk about specifics on funding when they met with Hepner, and they are not looking to head out alone without TransLink.
“I don’t think any one party can make it work,” said City Mayor Ted Schaffer.
He agreed local communities need to be proactive rather than reactive on getting transit projects moving.
“We’re going to be having discussions with the province and our federal MPs as well,” Schaffer said.
Another meeting in September will likely involve the mayors of White Rock and Delta, too, Schaffer said.
During the run up to the roll-out of the Mayors’ Council plans for transit improvements, the five South of the Fraser communities strategized together to make sure their fast-growing cities would get their share of any planned improvements.
Township Mayor Jack Froese said that the meeting was scheduled before the results of the vote were known.
“It certainly flavoured our discussions,” he said of the vote.
He rejected the idea of local municipalities going it alone on transit projects.
“We can’t got it alone,” Froese said. “These projects are just too big.”
Both Langley mayors are hopeful that something will be worked out, but how to find funding remains a major stumbling blocks.
Mayors have said they don’t want to increase regional property taxes more to pay for transit improvements, but TransLink doesn’t have the funds to expand transit in growing areas like Surrey and the Langleys.
Areas like Brookswood, Murrayville, Walnut Grove and Willoughby in Langley have seen minimal to no increase in transit service in recent years.
Although neither the province nor TransLink has come up with a new, immediate funding source, the mayors have been calling for something to happen and happen soon.
“The longer we wait, the more expensive these projects get,” said Froese.