Transit at a crossroads – From The Surrey Leader


Well here we go again, TransLink is planning for ‘rapid’ transit for Surrey and the Fraser Valley. Zwei has seen this all before and I’m afraid I am not at all enthused with the process, nor have much faith in TransLink to do an honest study. Zwei hates the term ‘rapid transit’ as it refers to metro and only metro and I must remind everyone concerned that a transit system is as fast as it is designed to be, with TransLink in the past, deceitfully planning LRT to be slow!

The picture of the supposedly Eugene BRT, is in fact a guided, rubber tired Guided Light Transit (GLT) vehicle that costs almost as much to install than a tram, yet has far less capacity. GLT, must operate on a dedicated rights-of-ways and cannot operate on-street in mixed traffic. The Eugene BRT uses standard articulated buses, busways, signal priority, high level loading platforms and greatly reduced stops to increase commercial speed. With BRT comes lots of new road construction as well.

With 10 minute peak headways (approx. 700 pphpd), there was little scope to plan for light rail.

Zwei also hopes that the light rail consultant has indeed worked on completed light rail projects, but what Zwei has read so far, there is little hope with this.

It just seems to me the same well oiled TransLink ‘dog and pony show’, done many times before, to keep the locals happy, while in reality doing nothing until the provincial government orders them to build another SkyTrain light-metro line.


Transit at a crossroads

By Jeff Nagel – Surrey North Delta Leader

There’s no timetable or money yet to build anything, but TransLink has begun asking local groups what shape an eventual rapid transit extension in Surrey should take.

Various corridors will be examined that could see rapid transit lines connect the existing SkyTrain stations to more town centres in Surrey and on to Langley and White Rock.

“We’re not just talking about SkyTrain here,” TransLink project planning manager Jeff Busby said.

“We’re looking at light rail and Bus Rapid Transit, where you’d use buses but you’d run them in their own lanes so they’d have some of the advantages of rapid transit.”

He said the Olympic streetcar demonstration line to Granville Island is a good example of what light rail could look like south of the Fraser.

TransLink is not locked in to routes that have been bandied about previously.

The Provincial Transit Plan included a map suggesting lines be built heading south on King George Highway and also east on 104 Avenue to Guildford, then southeast via Fraser Highway to Langley.

The South of the Fraser Area Transit Plan also flagged the same routes for further study.

 But consultants hired by TransLink to examine routes and technologies for the Surrey extension are also directed to look at the old Interurban rail corridor that many light rail fans say could be quickly used to launch a modern service.

Even Hydro rights-of-way that cut across Surrey could be potential routes, Busby said.

“It’s a blank slate at this point,” Busby said. “Everything is on the table.”

He mainly wants to know what local residents want to get out of a rapid transit expansion.

“How important is it that all the centres get connected? Are there some that are more important? What land-use and other planning goals should we be aware of?”

So far, TransLink is meeting with local stakeholder groups, with full public meetings to come in the fall.

The aim of the process, Busby said, is to shortlist options and then develop a preferred solution for the Surrey area that can be ready to launch if TransLink gets more sources of funding.

But Busby said the costs have to be weighed against performance factors, like the speed, frequency and carrying capacity of the various options.

SkyTrain carries the most people – 10,000 to 25,000 per hour – compared to 6,000 to 10,000 for light rail and 2,000 to 3,000 for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

The region has existing B-Line express bus routes – including Vancouver’s busy Broadway corridor to UBC – but none are as advanced as the type of BRT service Busby envisions.

BRT would feature permanent stations rather than stops and routes largely separated from traffic, potentially using traffic signal priority or else special bridges or trenches to scoot through congested intersections.

“We like at-grade street car-type light rail,” countered Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt, who sits on the city’s transportation committee.

He said King George Highway is a natural for the route as is 104 Avenue, and said there’s ongoing debate over whether Fraser Highway or the old interurban rail route should be used for the southeast corridor to Langley.

Hunt said Bus Rapid Transit doesn’t inspire public confidence and spur denser development in the same way as rail because buses seem temporary and can be easily changed.

“Once you get something that’s solidly in the ground, people respond to that a whole lot better,” he said.

Local transit advocate Paul Hillsdon also likes light rail as a long-term solution, but thinks it’s better to back less-costly BRT than get nothing or wait.

“Considering TransLink is broke and we need change now, the cheaper, more affordable short-term solution, I think, is creating a Bus Rapid Transit network.”

He envisions a network of seven fast, frequent lines that would connect all Surrey town centres (using 104, 72 and 64 Avenues and Scott Road, King George, 152 Street and the Fraser Highway) as well as the entire north-south 200 Street corridor through Langley Township and 24 Avenue from Crescent Beach to Langley.

“It would service areas that are going to grow by leaps and bounds over the next decade,” he said.

Surrey is expected to take a quarter of the region’s growth by 2041, when the population is to hit 750,000.

Allen Aubert, who was one of Surrey’s representatives on the South of Fraser Area Transit Plan, says time is of the essence and something must be built within five to 10 years.

That’s why he says the old Interurban route has a critical advantage: it already exists.

“It goes to Cloverdale, to Sullivan, to Newton where there’s a big exchange,” he said. “And lo and behold, it can connect to SkyTrain at Scott Road. What’s not to like?”

Past estimates suggest modern light rail cars – similar to Bombardier’s Olympic Line trams – could be put on the Interurban route from Scott Road all the way to Langley City for about $150 million, barely a tenth of the planned Burnaby-to-Coquitlam SkyTrain extension.

“It’s so cheap,” Aubert said, adding a spur line could easily be built running up King George from Newton to City Centre.

Aubert and others agree that whatever comes must serve local town centres, rather than be designed primarily to move commuters to Vancouver.

They say that’s the only way transit-oriented communities will develop and would reflect the reality that 80 per cent of trips south of the Fraser stay in the region.

 For more on the Surrey Rapid Transit process see:

Not a picture of the Eugene Oregon BRT, rather a GLT guided bus that must run on a dedicated ROW.

Eugene Oregon Emerald Express BRT

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7 Responses to “Transit at a crossroads – From The Surrey Leader”

  1. joe Says:

    go skytrain go!

    Zweisystem replies: Go taxes go, higher and higher, let’s double, no triple regional property taxes!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    [Comment removed for legal reasons]

    Zweisystem replies: Please, if you want to comment, don’t try using different names, I can see your ip address.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Maybe Joe wants to pay for it?

  4. Anonymous Says:

    lol forget it zwei, we’re gonna see skytrain soon. you can moan and groan, but thank goodness decision makers don’t give a crap about self-serving activists like you.

    go skytrain go!

    Zweisystem replies: I find it strange that SkyTrain has such support as it does, we spend 2 to 3 times more money for comparable transit and don’t receive much benefit from the expenditure. The vast loads on SkyTrain are merely forced transfers of bus customers and there is little evidence of a modal shift from car to transit because of SkyTrain. The huge costs preclude much development and taxes are rising proportionately to income to fund a metro operating on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain it.

    Some years ago, before TransLink, a TV interview with a corporate supporter of SkyTrain, gave many accolades for the metro, but a few month later the corporation and head office moved out of Vancouver because Vancouver was getting too expensive.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Anonymous above must be looking to make money off Skytrain.

  6. CLC Says:

    I found “skytrain lobbists” and light rail advocates both seem to discount BRT.

    You may be surprised about an established fact that BRT can have as large passenger capacity as LRT. I advise the author of this blog to explore Guangzhou next-generation BRT with 25000pphd, carried well over 700000 per day already. I don’t know where the largest-capacity LRT is, the Hong kong MTR light rail may come close to 20000pphd in peak periods, but it is done by vastly removed seats in their short-length light rail vehicles.

    Zweisystem replies: I severely doubt that BRT could carry 20,000 pphpd unless it could operate in multiple unit and guided. To date, the best a BRT route can handle is about 6,000 pphpd. The failure of Adelaide’s and Essen’s O-Bahn to attract new ridership has put the brakes on (so to speak) of BRT development. O-Bahn has been on the market as long as SkyTrain and it has proven to be almost unsellable. The new-age era of GLT, again have proven to be not so popular with some rubber-tyred GLT or guided bus must be guided by a single rail and can’t operate off the guide-way.

    There is a niche market for BRT, but what ridership exceeds 2,000 pphpd, the niche market quickly erodes in favour of light rail.

    Hong Kong’s Tuen Mun LRT carries over 25,000 pphpd and is done with non articulated vehicles operating at 30 second headways during peak hours and has been doing so for over a decade!

  7. CLC Says:

    Guangzhou BRT is a huge thing that uses some four-lanes busway, and maximal 800 meters bus platform. It is in design principle that Guangzhou BRT needs to carry huge loads (25000 pphd), as Guangzhou is among the top 5 metro core of China. I just bring it out to remind that in variations of BRT, you may build expensive guided busway system, or save money (per km) to build conventional system but with good design and planning to achieve subway-comparable capacity as established in Guangzhou BRT.

    My best knowledge taken from a recent Hong Kong legislative council document reveals that the Hong Kong MTR light rail “scheduled” combined peak periods frequency is 1.3 minutes. In reality it may feel like 30 seconds when the LRVs are packed up together (because of mixed traffic issue). You may not know that Yuen Long main road is a very busy commercial area, the light rail priority signal can only work to some extent but not effective, to have 30 second sustained headways is extremely difficult.

    Zweisystem replies: The busway noted above uses massive new bus expressways, etc., which could be accommodated by just two LRT tracks. China is investing in many transit modes to acquire technology and with a huge population, one wonders why just not build a subway/metro instead.

    The 25,000 pphpd was reported in Modern Tramway and Urban Transit over 15 years ago.

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