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LETTER: Invest in new Valley bus service

We are interwoven in the economic and social fabric of Chilliwack, Langley, and beyond.

An open letter to Mayor Banman and council :

The people of Abbotsford need to be better connected with the rest of Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver with transit service linking Chilliwack, Abbotsford, and Langley for several reasons.

First, it allows many people who live in Abbotsford an affordable way to get to their present jobs in Metro Vancouver and Chilliwack.

Assuming that a person living close to downtown Abbotsford is working in New Westminster just for fuel it costs approximately $10 to $13 for the round-trip every day. That is at least $2400 per year. In return the money earned outside of Abbotsford will be brought here and spent in our community through property tax, food, house maintenance, and so on. Personally I know several people living in Abbotsford who are working in Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam, and elsewhere. These people say they may benefit from a Chilliwack-Abbotsford-Langley bus service depending on the details.

Second, a transit service will help the unemployed and under-employed people in Abbotsford to access to jobs in Langley and Surrey. For example, the Chilliwack-Abbotsford-Langley service can help the employers of the Gloucester Industrial Park of Langley attract employees. This area is not presently served by transit and many employers have issues retaining staff due to transportation issues. This could also be a way to have the Township of Langley and TransLink to partner in funding the service. Further as the City of Abbotsford would like to develop the East Gloucester Industrial Park our City will have a vested interested in attracting new employers through improving public transit in this area.

Third, I ask all councillors sitting on the City of Abbotsford’s council to consider that day when your doctor recommends or must stop you from driving. Already in Abbotsford, there are hundreds of seniors without having drivers’ licenses that have a limited ability to access health care, meeting friends, and increase access to other areas of the Fraser Valley.

Fourth, by connecting Chilliwack and Abbotsford we will be better serving the student population of the University of the Fraser Valley’s two main campuses. By providing a transportation link that is reliable and well-funded we are helping to create educational opportunities in our community. Without this transportation connection UFV is at risk of losing potential students to other universities throughout British Columbia where transit exists.

Fifth, in order to help Abbotsford to become a well-placed competitive community that people will want to move to we must begin look at how it can improve its public transportation infrastructure. In a way that people can access the rest of the Fraser Valley and the Lower Mainland for employment, obtaining services, and getting post-secondary educations.

We are not an isolated part of British Columbia but interwoven in the economic and social fabric of Chilliwack, Langley, and beyond. And our public transportation network needs to reflect how we actually travel about the region.

In terms of investing in our community the Township of Langley serves as a good model. With the December 2012 introduction of the 555 Carvolith / Braid Station service between 202nd Street and the SkyTrain in New Westminster there has been strong interest by developers to build in the Willoughby area. In preparation for this regional bus service the Township of Langley increased density and is creating a transit-orientated neighbourhood. Quite simply the increased density as result of the 555 Carvolith / Braid Station bus service is also resulting in the Township of Langley getting more property taxes than before. And I have even received unsolicited marking material for two Willoughby developments asking my family to reconsider moving from Abbotsford to the Township of Langley.

Let's face it, all evidence across Canada and the United States shows that by investing in regional transit that it gives people the opportunity to have a transportation choice is important to residential housing market developers and the people who ultimately purchase these properties. In a time where many members of the City of Abbotsford Council discuss that we are financially tight, would not make sense to invest in our community to attract residential developers to our community.

I would like to suggest that the members of council get out and ride the buses of the Central Fraser Valley and ask the riders what benefits they would have by having a Chilliwack-Abbotsford-Langley transit service.

Further I would like to specifically suggest that council members ride the 21 Aldergrove Connector and the 502 Aldergrove/Surrey Central Station service before saying ‘no’ to an express bus. I have done this and we can do better than the existing service.

I would like to thank Mayor Banman for looking into his executive privilege to bring the issue back for reconsideration before the Abbotsford council.

I ask each member of council to please get on board and help create an express BC Transit service from Chilliwack and Abbotsford to Langley. It is an investment in building a stronger and better Abbotsford for the future.

Ken Wuschke