Langley will see several new bus routes and improved service after Metro Vancouver mayors finally approved the first phase of a 10-year transit upgrade plan Nov. 23.
“We’ll see increased frequency right away,” said Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese.
Changes are expected to begin in January for the overall system, but bus changes will likely begin in April.
The phase one budget is $2 billion and includes $370 million from Ottawa and $246 million from the province for capital projects.
The money for extra operating costs – the human and maintenance costs of actually operating more buses and SkyTrains – comes from TransLink, including property tax and transit fare increases.
Some of the riders waiting to catch the 555 bus from the Carvolth Exchange were happy to hear about the upgrades Tuesday.
Anita Ensor lives in Walnut Grove and has been commuting on the 555 across the Port Mann Bridge since it started. She used to have to take a bus across the river to use the West Coast Express.
“This is cheaper and more frequent,” she said.
But, sometimes there are issues with long lines and trouble getting on the bus, she said. She’d welcome more service and isn’t worried about a fare increase.
BCIT student Derek Everard sometimes drives, and sometimes takes the bus.
“It saves me about $25 a day,” he said of using transit. That’s parking, tolls, and fuel compared to using his student transit card.
Routes that are expected to see improvements include:
• 320, Langley City exchange to Surrey via Cloverdale
• 501, from the Carvolth Exchange to Langley Centre, will see hours extend to 10:30 p.m.
• 502, from Langley Centre to Surrey connecting with SkyTrain, will add more service during peak hours.
• 555, from Carvolth across the Port Mann to connect to SkyTrain, will add more runs, as often as every six minutes at peak hours.
• A new B-Line bus will take riders from Langley Centre to Surrey City Centre every 15 minutes down Fraser Highway.
• A new bike parkade will be built at Carvolth to secure bikes
• The re-routing of the 595 down 208th Street to serve Willoughby already took place earlier this year by re-allocating resources.
“I guess the biggest plus is going to be the new B-Line service coming down the Fraser Highway,” said Schaffer.
It will operate until late at night and give riders more options, Schaffer said.
Both mayors also noted that the plan includes money to actually plan for a light rail or SkyTrain link from Surrey out as far as Langley City.
“I’m very pleased that we’re at least at this point,” Schaffer said of SkyTrain planning. “Just a few years ago, Langley wasn’t even in the discussion.”
TransLink will increase the size of its physical fleet by extending the life of its older buses while new ones are being built, Froese said.
There will also be hiring, for TransLink and Coast Mountain, of more front-line workers such as drivers and service personnel.
“This is money that goes directly back into our economy,” Froese said of the new jobs.
In the future, finding more operational funding will still be TransLink’s job, but will require help from the province, Froese said.
If TransLink is to implement road pricing, one of the favoured options for future funding, it will need provincial approval and legislation, Froese noted.