Surrey mayor calls for transit expansion to be low profile to make sense – From the Vancouver Province

Surrey mayor, Dianne Watts, clearly understands the costs of ‘rail’ transit (the term ‘rapid transit’ is used by lazy or uniformed people) and that to get a larger more workable ‘rail‘  network for her city, she must opt for modern light rail. While Vancouver pines for another multi-billion dollar subway under Broadway, its politicians seem oblivious to the massive financial obligations needed to fund metro/subway. For the past three decades, Vancouver was happy to let others fund their metro system, but today’s financial realities means that there will be no more metro construction in the foreseeable future.
The math is simple; for every km. of SkyTrain built, one can build up to 10 km. of light rail!
The problem with Metro (today’s GVRD) and TransLink, their top planners have never understood ‘rail’ transit and plan for prestigious metro and subways such as SkyTrain and treat modern light rail as a poorman’s SkyTrain. Being at-grade doesn’t mean light rail can’t be fast nor does it condemn LRT as being slow, as any transit system is as fast as it is designers have designed it to be.
What is so sad, is when one hears the term ‘greenhouse objectives and regional transit planning in the same sentence. Despite over $8 billion spent on three light-metro lines, there has been no discernible modal shift from car to metro! In fact. subways are poor in attracting new ridership.
I would not call SkyTrain a ‘Cadillac’ transit system, rather it is an ‘Edsel’ transit system, that no one in Europe and North America want to build. In short, SkyTrain is an operating museum piece, which showcases 1970’s ‘rail’ transit philosophy. Today its 2010 and the financial realities of future fragile economy in the coming decade mean gold plated light-metro lines like SkyTrain will be seen as political follies.

In a few weeks, Rail for the Valley will also join the fray with its plans, which will bolster Mayor Watts demands for light rail.

With two competing transit modes, the Metro region will live with a dichotomy of light-metro operation North of the Fraser River and light rail South of the Fraser and soon calls will be made by those who have SkyTrain, be made to pay the higher costs for building and operating light metro. If North Fraser taxpayers (SkyTrain zone) are not inclined to do so, it may fuel the many calls for succession of South of the Fraser municipalities from TransLink. If TransLink splits, it will force North of the Fraser taxpayers into a new economic reality, one that their politicians turned a blind eye to, in their haste to build politically prestigious light metro, letting the rest of the regions taxpayers to fund it.


Surrey mayor calls for transit expansion to be low profile to make sense

By Frank Luba, The Province

When rapid transit expands south of the Fraser River, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts wants it to be at-grade and light rail — not overhead or underground or as expensive as SkyTrain.

But whatever happens with rapid transit, she doesn’t want to get into a battle with Vancouver over which area gets the next expansion.

“You’ve got to go where the need is,” said Watts Monday, reacting to a Metro Vancouver report that put expansion to the University of B.C. low on the priority list.

“With those scarce dollars you have, we don’t have the luxury of just making political decisions any more.” she said. “It has to make sense.”

While provincial plans have called for a SkyTrain expansion south of the Fraser, Watts said that for an area as big as Surrey and Langley “[SkyTrain] wouldn’t make sense because the costs would just be astronomical.”

“It’s nice to have a Cadillac like the Canada Line, but the cost is prohibitive,” she said. “If we’re ever to get the connectivity which we need south of the Fraser, then we better be looking at alternatives.”

It’s difficult to argue with the need for transit south of the Fraser River.

The area has close to one million residents already, with another 1,000 people moving into Surrey alone every month,

The draft regional-growth strategy report titled Metro Vancouver 2040, which was released last week, identified the top rapid-transit expansion priority as the $1.4-billion Evergreen Line connecting Coquitlam Regional City Centre to Lougheed Municipal Town Centre.

But the second priority was rapid-transit expansion from Surrey Metro Centre to one or more of the south of Fraser regional town centres — along with connecting Central Broadway in Vancouver to the existing rapid-transit network.

Presumably, that connection would be an extension of the Millennium Line as far as Arbutus.

A UBC expansion was well down on the list of other needs.

Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs, the city’s point man on transportation, thinks a connection to UBC is “inevitable” but knows Central Broadway is a more pressing priority.

“To meet the greenhouse-gas objectives the province has set, and to ensure economic health, we should try to find the funding to do these all as fast as possible,” said Meggs.

“Evergreen is clearly first,” he said,

But TransLink still doesn’t have its $400-million share of the Evergreen project, which is supposed to start construction in 2011 and be complete by 2014.

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One Response to “Surrey mayor calls for transit expansion to be low profile to make sense – From the Vancouver Province”

  1. Joe G Says:

    Here here, Dianne Watts!

    “She doesn’t want to get into a battle with Vancouver over which area gets the next expansion.”

    Exactly. She seems to be making a point this blog rightfully makes all the time, a point that deserves repeating: We can have both light rail for Surrey & the Fraser Valley, as well as through the Broadway corridor to UBC. It doesn’t have to be either/or.

    If the municipalities stand united and don’t play the prov. govt. game of fighting over the meager Skytrain scraps they are being fed, we can get superior transit, in more places, quicker and cheaper.

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