Langara buses centre of proposed transit referendum

Many Langara College students rely on the 49 and 41 bus to commute to school. Photo by Kayla Isomura
Many Langara College students rely on buses on 41st and 49th Avenue to commute to school.
Photo by Kayla Isomura

The 49th Avenue bus route continues to garner complaints from students at Langara College as bus pass-ups persist.

“Sometimes I can’t catch the bus because there are so many people,” said Langara College student Aran Liu.

Commerce student Sherri Wang agrees. She frequently gets passed up to and from school but has no other transit options commuting to school aside from the 49.

Liu finds himself in a similar situation. Despite being passed up at least every other day, he continues to take the same bustling bus because of it being his only option. As frustrating as it can be to miss the bus, he says he doesn’t mind because he doesn’t live too far from Langara.

TransLink funding fuelled by drivers

“The reality is that TransLink is facing decreasing budgets but increasing ridership,” said Nick Smith, strategy director of GetOnBoard BC.

“In a perfect world, we could increase transit along 41st and 49th and along Broadway but unfortunately with the funding situation we have now it’s not feasible,” he said.

“Major funding is fuel tax, property tax and little taxes — hydro levy, parking sales tax,” said Nathan Pachal, transit advocate. “But the biggest would be property, fuel and fares.”

However with less people driving cars, the funding from fuel has decreased, which explains why TransLink is unable to afford more frequent bus services.

Smith also says TransLink generally faces money problems because no new funding mechanisms for transit have been available in recent years.

“The provincial government has stalled in trying to increase the funding for transit,” he said. “Municipal mayors have put together ideas over the years…that would help pay for transit but none of them have ever been implemented.”

GetOnBoard BC is a coalition of partners advocating for improved public transit in Metro Vancouver.

Long bus lineups outside Langara College are often passed by already-full buses along 49th Avenue. Photo by Kayla Isomura
Long and short bus lineups outside Langara College are often passed by buses filled to capacity at previous stops.
Photo by Kayla Isomura

2014 transit referendum

The organization is currently focused on lobbying for a transit referendum in the next year to improve services of buses like the 49.

According to Smith, the provincial government has put forward the idea of a referendum, “it’d be great if the Liberals stepped up” to deal with issues relating to public transit immediately.

A referendum would mean more frequent transit would be available if voted on.

“There’s been an unofficial deadline set out by the next municipal election, which is next fall,” said Smith, “So the idea was that the referendum would be included on the municipal election ballot.”

“Some municipal leaders have been critical of that, not wanting to see the transit referendum overshadow the municipal election.”

Smith says GetOnBoard BC has been brainstorming ideas on the best ways to improve transit in Metro Vancouver.

Students passed up by their previous bus look for the next 49. Photo by Kayla Isomura
Students passed by a bus outside Langara College look down 49th Avenue, waiting for their next bus.
Photo by Kayla Isomura

Leap Ahead’s plan to help TransLink

Local transit advocates, Paul Hillsdon and Pachal, have drafted a transit funding plan for Metro Vancouver called Leap Ahead.

Leap Ahead has proposed a 0.5 per cent regional sales tax that would provide $21.5 billion in economic returns and $15 billion in taxpayer benefits.

“We found that sales taxes were successful in other parts of North America and would make the most amount of sense as something that could be implemented quickly,” said Pachal, adding that the taxes would provide the amount of revenue needed to expand the system and be equitable at the same time.

The proposed tax is estimated to cost families $40 per month.

Reported by Garin Fahlman and Kayla Isomura

Listen below for more information about Leap Ahead’s transit plan.

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