If you have the opportunity to go to Hannover, Germany, you will notice something distinctive about the city. Of all the places in the world that profess to have efficient transit systems, when you ask for directions in Hannover, the answer is always a transit route. Everything is within a couple of blocks' walk of a transit line. One-third of the city is forest, and the transit system moves everyone.
I, like a number of others, marvelled at what they had been able to do. When I searched out the economic development officer and asked how they were able to create such an incredible plan, he made me very aware that I was one of hundreds who have asked him the same stupid question, and in his terms, we were idiots.
He then showed me a picture on the wall which was Hannover at the end of the war.
There was one building standing. He then told me: "We got to start over and we were able to design our city around transit lines."
What he did not understand is why other cities couldn't learn from their experience and have a plan from the start, rather than having to start over.
Taking that philosophy of having a plan: "Maple Ridge to TransLink. We have a problem."
TransLink, despite its best efforts, has unleashed warlocks against warlocks for TransLink dollars.
Burnaby, through politics and, some would say, good management, has accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars of property as an added benefit from SkyTrain.
While Burnaby competes with Vancouver and Surrey for the next billion-dollar expenditures, somebody should say, "Just a minute."
Rather than requiring the riders to pay more or increasing property taxes, there is a very simple solution called the Area Benefitting Tax.
It is especially applicable to UBC's claim that they are the next to get TransLink dollars. UBC has sold hundreds of millions of dollars of market-value housing, and now wants transit, expecting TransLink to pay the bill.
Forcefully, Mayor Diane Watts of Surrey is now starting to compete for the billions of dollars of future expenditures of TransLink.
The outward regions of TransLink have never been serviced well, but somehow during all of the discussion, Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender has been able to arrange a direct B-Line bus to his neighbourhood. It is more surprising that Mayor Watts did not seem to know anything about the direct route - which bypassed Surrey. So, back to the plan and do we have one?
If Maple Ridge had a B-Line to transit that would become an LRT line when usage demanded it, that would be a plan which we could use to develop our community.
Apparently, we are not allowed to do that without a scenic tour of the City of Pitt Meadows.
Maple Ridge collects more than $5 million per year through property taxes for TransLink, and it is easy to claim that there is no option.
I think that is what got King John in trouble. Our community should come together and demand TransLink to provide a plan for the future, one which we can plan our community around, one which doesn't require us to start over.
An Area Benefitting Tax, which is a small tax imposed on an area surrounding transit stations, would solve the funding problem.
Good luck getting that passed, because the cities that already have the stations would never support it. Now, we are back to the warlocks.
An obvious question to my friend Mayor Daykin is: If Mayor Fassbender can get a direct bus past Surrey, why can't you get a bus past Pitt Meadows?
- Gordy Robson is a former Maple Ridge mayor and a local businessman who was raised in this
community. His opinion column appears Tuesdays in the print and/or online versions of The TIMES. Questions and reactions can be emailed to Gordy Robson c/o email@example.com.