Last Sunday night, I spent two hours walking around Sunshine Hills in North Delta hoping to engage in a conversation with my neighbours about the transportation referendum. My journey began with optimism and excitement, but ended in disappointment; not one person that I spoke with seemed excited about the possibility of transit and transportation improvements in our region. This got me thinking — maybe there’s a lack of understanding among North Delta residents on the potential benefits from this plan.
Growing up in North Delta, I rarely spent any time on public transit. Everywhere I needed to go — school, sporting events, or friends’ houses — was either in walking distance or my parents (so kindly) drove me. When I began my studies at Simon Fraser University, I didn’t even know the Millennium Line existed, let alone how public transit could get me to school. But because my parents worked and I was unable to afford a car, I had to figure it out.
I spent two and a half years taking the #340 bus to 22nd St Station, boarding the Millennium Line to Production Station, and finally taking the #145 to SFU. On a good day, this commute took 1 hour, but if I was headed home late from school for an event and missed the #340 bus (which currently runs every 30 minutes after 7:30 p.m. and once an hour after 10:30 p.m.) it could take me up to 2 hours to get home from SFU. Days when I had to get to work were even worse! Needless to say, this routine got old pretty fast. After two and a half years, I decided that paying rent in Burnaby was worth getting back anywhere between two and four hours of my day that I had been spending commuting.
When I think about the choice to be made in the upcoming Metro Vancouver Transit and Transportation referendum, I think about the positive impact this will have on our environment by substantially reducing air pollution and carbon emissions. I think about our health and how those who commute by transit, biking, or walking have 33% lower odds of being overweight or obese compared to those who commute by car. I think about the approximate $ 1.2 billion in potential economic benefits we are at risk of losing if it doesn’t pass. But first, I think about how these proposed improvements could have improved my daily commute, and the commutes of other students, my family, friends, and neighbours in North Delta.
I think about the time I would have saved if the #340 came at least every 15 minutes all day, or if we had a B-Line route that came at least every 5 minutes during peak hours from Scott Road Station to Newton Exchange. I think about all of the horrible trips I took moving from crowded bus, to crowded train, to a long and winding queue at Production Station, and finally back on to a crowded bus for the final leg up to the SFU Burnaby campus. I remember how much this affected my mood and efficacy in class. And with regret, I think about all of the experiences that I missed out on due to the limitations and length of my commute.
But this choice that we are faced with is not just about a student’s commute to university on public transit. No, it is about much more than that. North Delta has four main feeder routes that serve Delta, Surrey, and Langley and lead to the Alex Fraser and Pattullo bridges. I know that we have all experienced the overwhelming, frustrating, even soul-crushing queues on Nordel Way, 72nd Ave, 64th Ave, and Scott Road during peak commute hours. Can you imagine how much worse this is going to get with an expected 500,000 people moving south of the Fraser in the next 30 years? Having a light rail transit (LRT) system south of the Fraser as well as additional B-Line bus routes, will take thousands of drivers* off the road and help relieve these heavily congested, bottlenecked routes.
As I tirelessly attempt to convince everyone I know who will listen, I continue to be asked the same question: why do I care so much?
For those who know me, the obvious answer would be the environmental impacts of a “No” vote — but it really goes much further than that. I care so much because I know that even if they can’t see it now, my friends, family, and the community will benefit from these improvements, no matter where they’re living or how they get around. I want nothing more than healthy, happy lives for each one of them.
Today I live in downtown Vancouver. I don’t own a car and I rely on public transit, walking, and cycling to get around. Yet I still consider North Delta my home because it’s where most of my friends and my family live. Here are some of the improvements that North Delta residents will benefit from if this transportation referendum passes:
- B- Line rapid buses on Scott Road every 5 minutes during rush hours, and at least every 15 minutes all day, 7 days a week. This bus will go from Scott Road Station to Newton Exchange via Scott Road and 72nd Avenue
- Buses on 64th Avenue and 88th Avenue every 15 minutes or less all day long
- The #N19 bus will provide more frequent service from downtown Vancouver to Surrey Central Bus Loop. (The Mayor’s Plan allows for new NightBus routes to be considered through partnerships with municipalities and public consultation.)
- Custom Transit: Expand HandyDART door-to-door shared ride service for persons with physical or cognitive disabilities
- Replacement of the Pattullo Bridge
- *With the introduction of the three proposed Surrey Light Rail Transit lines:
- There will be an estimated reduction of 1.34 billion vehicle kilometres travelled between the years 2020-2049
- By 2041 there will be an average of 160,000 passengers boarding the Surrey LRT lines per weekday (more facts on the Surrey LRT plan)
These improvements are specific to North Delta residents. Please take the time to learn more about how this vote will have a greater impact on our region.
Shea O’Neil is the Assistant to the Director at the SFU Centre for Dialogue.