Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Last Night at Township Hall

I, as well as other members of SFOT, spent 3.5 hours at the Township council meeting last night. If there was one theme yesterday, it was sports tourism and transportation. I will focus on transportation.

As was posted previously, there were two motions that dealt with the Interurban and community rail: one motion by Councillor Bateman and the other by Councillor Richter. Both the Valley Transportation Advisory Committee (Committee) and South Fraser OnTrax (SFOT) gave delegations to council in support of Bateman's motion. You can download our presentation notes from the document achieve. It was interesting to note that Sonya, on behalf of the Committee, was originally going to ask for a delay of both motions. She stated that the Committee wanted a chance to review the presentation by the Township Staffer Paul Cordeiro. I personally don't see how reviewing Paul's presentation would matter, as council seems to be in support of going forward with community rail. Anyway, she did change her mind, and that was a very good thing. The Committee also asked for a round-table discussion with council to talk about the Cordeiro presentation. It seemed that at least Councillor Long and Ward were in support of that.

Councillor Long asked both SFOT and the Committee who would pay for the community rail ridership study. We pointed out that the Township paid for the original UMA study. Councillor Richter seemed keen on meeting with the Committee before supporting Bateman's motion on the study. She also asked how many people were in SFOT. She then noted that the 60+ demographic is the faster growing according to the 2006 census data. I would certainly think that people 60+ would want better transit and community rail sooner rather than later.

The meeting then shifted to sports tourism. There was talk about spending $20k to place signs on all the major gateway roads into Langley to help people find sports venues. There was also a presentation on the recent $100k upgrade to the lacrosse box at McLeod Athletic Park. There was discussion of spending $20k for Aldergrove At-Risk Youth Sports. Also, council voted 5-4 not to support spending $15k on a concert this summer at the McLeod Grandstand. Councillor Kositsky seemed very much in support of sports tourism, as did many on council.

The meeting then shifted back to transportation. Bateman's motion was the first on the list. Councillor Kositsky started off by mentioning that the motion was in contrary to council's March 10th 5-4 support of Translink's South of Fraser Area Transit bus plan. Mayor Alberts said that he though the motion fits within council's conditional support of Translink's plan stating that the motion would provide further information to aid Translink in getting rapid transit to Langley. The motion was allowed and Councillor Bateman explained the reasons why he drafted the motion.

1.) It was based on the recommendations of the High-level UMA Community Rail Study.
2.) There is a time crunch with the Livability Accord (a committee of the Township of Langley, Surrey, Abbotsford, and Coquitlam). He mentioned that there is funding in the Livability Accord to study transportation. (Mayor Alberts stated that Transit is a pilot.)
3.) There should be money from other municipalities to help fund the next step in the study.
4.) People in the Township are looking for leadership from council. People want council to lead the way in getting community rail for Langley.

Councillor Fox added that much has been happening in the way of transit and community rail. He cited the Abbotsford Inter-regional Transportation Select Committee and Surrey’s Heritage Rail Project. He mentioned that Langley needs to get involved because it is in the middle of the Interurban line. He said that buses are not the only solution. "We need to be big and bold." Councillor Vickberg noted that 70% of all trips stay in Langley and that buses will play a major roll in transporting these people. Councillor Bateman mentions his streetcar plan. Councillor Vickberg stated that he would support the motion.

Councillor Richter said that buses are important. She was also concerned about the cost of continuing with the recommendations of the UMA study. She then asked Paul Cordeiro what he though the second phase reporting would cost. He said it might be $100,000, but admitted that he didn’t really know.

Councillor Richter moved to refer (aka delay) the motion to staff for detailed costing analysis. It was moved by Richter and seconded by Long. Councillor Kositsky asked staff how much the original UMA High-Level Study cost. Staff said it cost $20,000 (due to the fact that Surrey completed a similar study.) Kositsky said that is was ridiculous to spend money on something that Translink and the Province has control over and should pay for. Councillor Ferguson said that he didn’t support Richter’s move to refer the motion to staff. He mentioned that the Township spent money on thing like the new townhall, and that the Township must continue to invest in the future of the community.

At that time, the meeting ran out of time and council took at break.

When council returned to discuss the motion, Councillor Ferguson continued saying that community rail must move forward. He stressed that the motion said pursue and that funding will come later. Councillor Fox, Ward, and Long didn’t see value in Councillor Richter’s proposed referral to staff. The referral was defeated with only Councillor Richter and Kositsky in support. Councillor Long then suggested that the originally motion be amendment. Councillor Kositsky suggested changing the sentence Therefore be it resolved that the Township support the concept of community rail and pursue the following measures: to Therefore be it resolved that the Township support the concept of community rail and pursue funding from other orders of government and agencies for the following measures:

The motions was carried

Richter's motion was referred to the Livability Accord task-force.

At the end of the meeting, I was left with mixed feelings. Township council is going forward with community rail, and that's a good thing, but I don’t think they are fully realizing their leadership potential in championing it and the Interurban. Finding funding is a good first step, and I believe that there are others who will step-up-to the funding plate, but Township council still needs to play a leadership role if we are to see community rail and rapid transit before I'm old and gray.

Community rail IS going forward.

No comments: