Metro Vancouver pushes rapid transit for Surrey, not UBC – Why Not Build Both?


A Karlsruhe tramtrain operating on tram tracks. The same LRV can operate on the mainline.

It seems that that METRO Vancouver’s chief honcho wants to extend ‘rapid transit’ (read SkyTrain) in Surrey and not on Broadway. But don’t hold your breathe for any action anytime soon. The Tri-Cities have been waiting for their ‘rapid transit’ (read SkyTrain) for over two decades and were pipped at the post by Premier Campbell (and former Vancouver mayor) who used his political will to build the extremely expensive and prestigious Canada Line subway.

The reason that Mr. Carline is mentioning rapid transit to Surrey probably has more to do with the ever growing demand by South Fraser taxpayers to secede from TransLink and if that happens, opens the door to secede from Metro Vancouver altogether. If Metro Vancouver does extend SkyTrain in Surrey, then any public revolt against ponderous and boated bureaucracy on Kingsway (and soon New Westminster) will be near impossible.

The sad fact is, the region can’t afford any more SkyTrain lines, which with construction costs of over $100 million/km. has all but castrated TransLink’s ability to provide a useful public transit service!

There is an alternative to the dated SkyTrain metro system and that is light rail transit.

TransLink has always treated light rail and the light rail family as a poorman’s SkyTrain and to this day remain largely ignorant of the world’s most popular ‘rail‘ transit mode. TransLink’s own documents well illustrate their anti-LRT bias.

We do know that we can build TramTrain for under $10 million/km. and simple LRT/tram for under $20 million/km. and if we deny transit  bureaucrats from over designing and over building ‘rail‘ transit in the region could have just an efficient light rail transit network at a fraction of the cost of SkyTrain/metro !

The cost of a usable SkyTrain extension in Surrey would be at least $1.5 billion to $2 billion, with no further extensions for many decades, yet for $1.5 billion we could build a Vancouver to Chilliwack TramTrain and a BCIT to UBC/Stanley Park LRT/tram line.

This has always been the choice of transit bureaucrats, cheaper and longer LRT/tram lines or more expensive, shorter metro lines. To date, TransLink bureaucrats have always taken the most expensive route.

In a few short weeks, Rail for the Valley may provide the answer to our expensive ‘rail‘ transit planning with a detailed account how to build affordable ‘rail‘ transit, the problem will be, as it always had been: “Will TransLink, Metro Vancouver, and the Provincial government listen?”

Metro Vancouver pushes rapid transit for Surrey, not UBC

Read more:

By KELLY SINOSKI, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER — Metro Vancouver’s chief bureaucrat wants TransLink to bump a proposed rapid transit line to the University of B.C. to the bottom of its priority list and instead boost services in the fast-growing area south of the Fraser River.

Metro chief administrative officer Johnny Carline said Friday that Surrey will bear the brunt of the region’s growth in the next 30 years, and more transit is needed to help shape that city’s development.

The recommendation, included in Metro’s new 2040 Shape our Future draft regional growth strategy, suggests TransLink give priority to connecting Surrey city centre to other growth neighbourhoods following completion of the long-awaited Evergreen Line, which will link Port Moody, Coquitlam and Burnaby.

Only after Surrey gets improved transit should TransLink consider extending rapid transit along the Broadway corridor, the draft strategy says.

TransLink is preparing technical reports for both projects: a UBC rapid transit line and extending SkyTrain in Surrey to the Guildford area.

“We don’t think we’ll be able to afford full-scale investments in the Evergreen Line, south of the Fraser and UBC all in the life of this plan,” Carline told members of Metro’s regional planning committee Friday.

“We can’t afford to have investments going out to UBC that take away from investment in the major growth areas.”

Metro Vancouver is expected to be home to 3.4 million people by 2040 – a million more than now – with a third of the new residents expected to live in Surrey and White Rock, raising that area’s population to roughly the same as Vancouver’s.

Under the regional growth strategy, Metro is proposing to develop more “urban centres” with office, retail, community, culture and higher density housing to keep people living and working closer to home or along transit corridors.

Metro has been struggling for years to concentrate development in these centres, and to curb sprawl from extending into rural areas.

Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve said her city is in desperate need of more transit, especially as it’s set to become the second largest metropolitan region in the province. The city is developing its town centres to become more transit-dependent, she said, while also looking at alternatives such as light rail, heritage rail and more community buses.

Surrey city council will visit Portland in October to consider that city’s transportation system, Villeneuve said, and will lobby the federal government for more infrastructure funding.

“Our transit network is very poor,” she said, adding that Vancouver already has a better transit system than Surrey. “Vancouver is a place where you don’t need a car. Surrey is a place where you have to have a car.

“[Vancouver] may have to look at waiting [for transit] just like we have.”

Carline said he has no problem with TransLink investigating rapid transit lines for the Broadway-UBC corridor, but it wouldn’t be prudent to spend its limited pot of money in Vancouver when there is a bigger need in Surrey and other areas south of the Fraser.

“That’s where the region is changing the most and that’s where we need transit,” he said, adding: “It shouldn’t be put off. … If we put rapid transit in there, it would put a big impact on the development community on where it wants to go.”

Carline said it’s more difficult to retrofit a community for high-density transit hubs after it has been developed, particularly if a city has decided to turn swaths of cheap land into low-density, sprawling office parks.

The draft regional growth report – the fifth to be released since the 1960s – has been in the works since 2002. Besides developing more urban centres, it calls for protecting industrial land for manufacturing and processing to create jobs, as well as land for rural and conservation uses.

Carline said the report has been revised to make it more flexible for municipalities to make decisions around their urban centres and other neighbourhoods without having to seek approval from the regional district.

Metro Vancouver will receive comments on the draft strategy until Oct. 15 before going to a public hearing, likely in November. The plan must be adopted by all of Metro Vancouver’s 22 member municipalities, the Tsawwassen First Nation and TransLink.

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2 Responses to “Metro Vancouver pushes rapid transit for Surrey, not UBC – Why Not Build Both?”

  1. Eric Doherty Says:

    Interesting post, but you should note that for people in Surrey the King George Highway/Guildford route may end up being the #1 priority. Rail for the valley is important, but transit within the city is important too.

    Zweisystem replies: The Rail for the Valley’s TramTrain project and light rail in Surrey go hand in hand.

    Building SkyTrain to Guildford, if built, will not to be to provide better transit, but to entrap Surrey from seceding from TransLink. The Gateway highways project, as I stated before, is being built (in part) due to the high cost and unattractiveness of the SkyTrain metro system. Despite huge sums invested in SkyTrain in the past 30 years, TransLink can’t show a modal shift. In other jurisdictions this would lead the call for resignations of senior planning staff, not so in Vancouver, where mediocrity rules supreme.

  2. Vancouver’s Transit Trajectory: Densify the Core, or Extend Out? « The Transport Politic Says:

    […] costs. The Broadway and Surrey lines could likely both be built as non-grade separated light rail for the same price as just one of them as automated rapid transit. Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts has herself suggested […]

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